For the uninitiated, a shillelagh (pronounced "shuh·lei·luh" or "shuh·lei·lee") is is a wooden walking stick and club or cudgel, typically made from a stout knotty blackthorn stick with a large knob at the top.

Think of this as a two-sided cautionary tale. Both sides in this story made some pretty serious life-mistakes, but it really only turned out badly for one side.

First, some background. One of the many scams that has made its way across the United States over the last number of years involves people posing as utility workers.

The phony utility worker will knock on a door, then tell the person who answers the door that the worker needs to come inside to check their fuse box (or furnace, or water heater, etc) because there's been a nearby power outage or incident of some sort, and the worker wants to make sure that there's no fire-hazard in the house.

After being allowed in, the fake utility worker will try to lure the homeowner(s) down to the basement to show him wear the equipment is located. While the worker and the soon-to-be victims are downstairs, the worker's compatriots come inside upstairs and quickly ransack the home for valuables. There are literally hundreds of stories around the country that follow this pattern. If you should ever get a knock on the door and find yourself being told something like I just described, don't let the person (or people) inside. Demand identification, and follow that up with a call to the utility the person claims to represent. This scam usually involves senior citizens alone in their homes.

That's the scenario that unfolded in Niles a week or so back.

81 year old Dan Donovan, a former U.S. Marine, and his wife were home when there was a knock at their door from a man in a reflective vest (like you'll see utility workers wear). He gave them a story about a nearby power outage, and told them he needed to check their fuse box for a fire hazard.

Not being aware of the scam, the Donovans allowed him inside, and took him downstairs to show him where the fuse box was.

While downstairs, Mrs. Donovan heard two men moving around upstairs. After being made aware of the situation, Dan rushed upstairs, and lacking another choice in weaponry, grabbed his grandfather's shillelagh. Donovan said he pursued the trio, striking one in the back of the head with the club.

While his wife called police, Donovan chased the trio outside and, barefoot, began striking an SUV they had parked in his driveway with the club, Pioneer Press reported. The burglars managed to steal at least a pillowcase from the home, and Donovan said he was not sure if they had time to make off with anything else.

Dan said he hoped that the bad guys didn't make off with anything, but he was hoping that at least one of them had a splitting headache.

Keep an eye out for this scam, and it probably wouldn't hurt to add a shillelagh to your home arsenal.


LOOK: Here are the best small towns to live in across America

More From WROK 1440 AM / 96.1 FM