By the time he reached the party, Stephen C. Troyer knew he had a problem.
His vehicle of choice - a stolen $200,000 combine - was dented and had limbs from trees that line northern Baltimore County's rural roads wedged into its harvest blades.
The problem, said Assistant State's Attorney Adam Lippe, is that combines aren't designed for that kind of driving.
"What you have to keep in mind is that this is really a behemoth of a machine. It's huge," Lippe said.
Troyer, 20, a farmer from White Hall, was convicted by Judge Thomas J. Bollinger Sr. on Thursday of unauthorized use of a neighbor's combine and sentenced to three years' supervised probation.
A hearing to determine restitution has yet to be scheduled.
Troyer did not return phone calls last week, but he has repeatedly insisted that he is innocent. He could not be reached for comment last night.
He told police shortly after the theft Oct. 9, 1998, that people may have seen him in the cab of the bright red 1998 Case International combine at a friend's party that night on Breidenbaugh Lane in Long Green.
But that was because he climbed in to check it out after it arrived, he said.
Troyer was convicted twice: once last year by Baltimore County District Court Judge Patricia Pytash and again last week, when Bollinger heard his appeal.
"Everybody saw him with it. I mean, how do you hide if you're riding a combine down the middle of a highway?" Lippe said.
He said Troyer apparently spotted the combine parked in a field near a 7-Eleven convenience store at Manor Road and Jarrettsville Pike where youngsters from the rural community of Jacksonville hang out.
As a farmer, Troyer had a key fitting the ignition of that model combine, Lippe said.
Troyer chose a route that took him five miles south on Manor Road, past a volunteer fire station to the party, where he had to ask the host to borrow a chain saw to clear the limbs, Lippe said.
Steve Pieper, who owns the combine, said the machine was designed to work "like a precision instrument," but that it now drops grain when it harvests crops.
Pieper said three dealers have told him Troyer's joy ride shaved $38,000 from its value. Even so, he never wanted Troyer to be jailed. "I wish him no harm. I just want to be put back to where I was financially before this happened," he said.
Lippe agrees that jail would have accomplished nothing.
"Everybody says he's a nice guy," Lippe said. "He just did something really stupid."