If your neighbor hates rhubarb and you ‘liberate’ a little, is it really stealing?

So if your neighbor doesn’t even like rhubarb, and it’s growing in his garden, and you just happen to be in his backyard with a knife and you cut a couple of stalks, it’s not really stealing, right?

That’s the joke between South Eighth Street next-door neighbors, Bill Erdman and Kathryn Bornemann. But, Bornemann admits, getting caught once in Erdman’s backyard with a knife in her hand left her feeling “mortified,” she laughed. 

Bornemann needed the  rhubarb to make pies. She was just a couple of stalks short one time — she has a large patch of it in her own garden -— so she ventured into Erdman’s yard. 

“It was pie baking season,” Bornemann said Monday. 

“And I don’t really care for it,” Erdman said, of rhubarb, a hardy perennial that grows well in the area. 

“I wouldn’t know what to do with it. I’d rather have my neighbor steal it,” he laughed. 

So you see, it’s not really stealing. 

Bornemann bakes pies weekly in the summer. She’s in training for the pie competition held at the Park County Fair each August. 

“I’m pretty competitive with my pies,” she laughed.

Bornemann jokes that she has “liberated” currants growing from a tree in a boulevard near a friend’s house, but she always returns with a pie. 

“It’s all in the name of pie,” she cracked. 

Her carrot cake has won several first-place awards over the years. But what she covets, she said, and what has eluded her, is the first-place ribbon in pie baking. And she wants that ribbon. Bad. So, weekly pie practice. 

Bornemann and her family — husband George and children Gus and Sonia — have lived next door to Erdman for about seven years, she said. Erdman has lived in his house for nearly 50 years. He’s retired from the railroad and enjoys his neighborhood.

“We have a good time here,” he said. 

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Rhubarb grows well in the  area. And for some people, perhaps too well. 

Livingston resident Julie Benden said she doesn’t care for rhubarb, but she doesn’t know if her kids like it or not.

“You don’t try things on kids you don’t like yourself,” she said. 

Benden recalled pulling up a patch of it in her yard to make room for a woodpile.

She put down wooden pallets on which to stack the wood, and the rhubarb still grew back the next year. 

Is it still there?

“I don’t know. We moved to get away from it,” she laughed.