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Carts' owner driven to find stolen goods

According to David Bates, finding his stolen go-carts was an adventure on the order of discovering the source of the Nile. "I went deep into the bowels of Shady Hills. My wife didn't think she was ever going to see me again," said Bates, co-owner of Putt 'n' Sputt, a miniature golf course and go-cart track on County Line Road.

The go-carts had disappeared June 5, when two young drivers jumped into the idling carts and "took off like a bat out of Hell right across County Line Road and straight into Shady Hills."

Customers tipped Bates off that the go-carts were in the hands of two youngsters in Shady Hills. Because the Sheriff's Office hadn't found them by the weekend, Bates took up the search on Saturday.

"I was driving down a side street off Little Ranch Road (in Pasco County), trying to get my bearings," he said.

Then "all of a sudden, around the corner, comes this kid on a go-cart. I basically chased him down with the car and coaxed him off the road and had a good conversation with him," Bates said.

At first, the youth told Bates he had bought the go-cart for $50. Then he admitted taking it from Putt 'n' Sputt, Bates said. The boy led Bates to the home of his friend, also in Shady Hills, who had the other cart.

The parents of the boys, both 12 years old, offered to pay for the damages to the go-carts, including a bent axle, bent frame and broken seat that came from riding the delicate track machines on the rough roads of Shady Hills.

The two have been regular customers. "They seem like pretty good kids who did something very stupid," Bates said.

The carts were worth about $2,000. The boys have promised to work off the debt to their parents for the repairs, he said.

"I think both of them are going to be doing a lot of lawn-mowing to pay their parents back."

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