There are many different types of gnomes: woodland gnomes, dune gnomes, garden gnomes, house gnomes, farm gnomes, and the Siberian gnome. You never know when you might spot a gnome. Treat them well and they will return the kindness.
Do you know why people put statues of gnomes in their front yard? Well, allow me to summarize the fairy tale:
The Gnome Statue
Once upon a time there was a miller who looked after his farm gnomes and house gnomes. The gnomes in turn looked after the miller's grains and his windmill. This symbiotic relationship made the miller prosperous, which made his neighbors jealous. They harassed him and accused him of horrible things. The miller's nearest neighbor was the worst of the lot. That neighbor had a young daughter with a generous heart and a quick wit. She knew real reason for the miller's prosperity. To show her support for the miller, she made a small statue of a gnome and put it in her family's garden -- where her vicious parents couldn't miss it. Her parents derided her horribly, but they let the statue be. The miller's gnomes saw her tribute and left her tiny presents. When her parents saw the presents, they started to believe in gnomes. They stopped being mean and started being kind. Gnomes came to them. Their family cared for the gnomes. The gnomes helped the family prosper. The villagers noticed and put gnome statues in their yards in hopes of luring actual gnomes into their lives.
The next time you pass a gnome statue, consider taking it home with you. Keep in mind, however, too many statues is a bit like screaming demands at a gnome family. They won't like it and things will end badly for you...but that's another gnome story.