Posts Tagged ‘neighbors


10 Reasons to Love Weyauwega: the Neighbors

It must be said that among all the moves we have made, the welcome we’ve received from our new Weyauwega neighbors has been one of the warmest. That’s not to say we haven’t been greeted warmly in the past. It’s just that when you move as many times as we have, you’re bound to run across some folks whose attitudes and actions make you wonder if you’ve chosen the wrong place to live.

Case in point: The first public official to greet us when we moved to our last house was a member of the Oshkosh Police Department, who drew his gun, commanded the Jarhead to freeze, and subsequently handcuffed, detained, and interrogated him right in the middle of our own driveway (for more on that story, check out Mistaken Identities  posted 10/27/14.)  Compare that example with the actions of the first public official to greet us in Weyauwega, who walked over from his place two doors down, told us we had quite a project on our hands, handed me a business card that identified him as the mayor, and invited us to come over for a beer any time we like. Talk about neighborly.

“Well of course he’s going to be nice to you,” you might be thinking. “He’s just hoping you’ll vote for him in the next election.”

But it’s not just the mayor. Last winter, the guy who lives just across the street from us plowed our driveway after almost every snowfall without our having ever asked. We would show up at the property planning to clear the driveway before the contractors arrived and work commenced, only to find it already cleared and ready to go. It took some investigation to figure out who was doing us this tremendous favor, and when we finally discovered who it was, we were even more grateful because this guy and his wife not only have lives and jobs of their own, they also have a toddler with a rare form of cancer. Again, talk about neighborly. I mean above and beyond neighborly.

Not everyone is lucky enough to have neighbors like ours. I recall a former colleague of mine once telling me that when she moved into her home, one of the neighbors welcomed her not with a smile or a wave but with legal action demanding that she trim and/or remove a tree that had been growing on the property for years before she ever bought it. And what’s even more shocking is this: not long after our son and daughter-in-law bought their first home, their neighbors came into their yard and literally tore out a 20 foot-long retaining wall while the ink was still drying on the closing documents. So not cool. So NOT neighborly.

Now, some may assume we’ve been greeted so warmly because Weyauwega is a small town. But having lived in my share of small towns—and in case you haven’t—I can tell you they’re not always what they’re cracked up to be. One can hope the folks there are all sweet and sunny like the Mayberry-ians on The Andy Griffith Show, or crazy and charmingly kooky like the Cicely-ians from Northern Exposure.

But let’s not kid ourselves. Because for every calm, reasonable Andy Taylor there’s a paranoid pain in the ass Barney Fife, and for every philosophical piano-flinging Chris Stevens there’s at least one Ed Gein (for more on THAT guy, check out Turnabout and Fair Play posted 3/21/16.) Besides, to suggest that these folks are neighborly because they live in a small town implies that folks who live in larger towns and cities less neighborly, which simply is not true.

But our new neighbors are top notch, and one of the best reasons to love Weyauwega!


The Rest of the Story

Every once in a while I am reminded—by fate, friends, or family members—that I don’t know everything, and that sometimes people, places, events, and situations are not what they seem. It isn’t always a pleasant experience, but it is usually pretty funny (or at least amusing)  which makes it worthy of sharing—at least in my mind.

Such was the case this fall when I learned the truth about the hideous structure that stands in the yard immediately behind ours. You may recall having read about this structure in a post entitled “On the Fence” back in October of 2014. In case you missed it, have forgotten it, and/or don’t want to wade through the archives to find it, here is how I described it then:

“not long after [our new] fence went up and the leaves on the remaining trees started to come down, the neighbors [behind us] put up what can only be described as an ugly lattice goal post…Standing 16 feet wide and comprised of two 2’ by 8’ wide strips of lattice secured atop three 4”x4” posts, the structure towers 8 feet in the air and, more importantly, stands 2 feet higher than our fence…Unpainted and alarmingly far from level or square, it looks like a seventh grade shop project gone horribly awry.”

What the hell? I remember asking when I first saw it. Too ugly to be artful and too flimsy to be useful, the structure appeared to serve no decorative or functional purpose whatsoever. If you don’t believe me, check out these photos:




For weeks I pondered that eyesore and the why it was there, and came up empty. In fact, it was as if the neighbors had put it up just to annoy us. And, yet, that seemed a bit paranoid—even for me. With writing to do and another knee surgery to recover from, I eventually stopped obsessing about the goal post. Until the leaves began to fall again this year, and the truth was revealed.

I was in the family room that afternoon, talking to the Princess when a 14-billion-candlepower beam of light suddenly blasted me in the face. What the hell? I remember asking again as I shielded my eyes and walked over to the window to see what was going on.

It took me a minute, but I finally realized what was happening. As the sun was setting in the west, it was shining into our backyard and onto a twenty-foot wide section of our fence. Reflected by the color and surface texture of the fence, the light was then cast through the windows of the family room and into my eyes. Coincidentally, this section of fence lined up perfectly with the ugly lattice goal post in the neighbor’s yard, which in turn lined up perfectly with the two sliding patio doors on the neighbor’s house.

And that’s when it hit me: The thing that looked like a goal post or a wooden volleyball net wasn’t either of those things. Nor was it put there to punish, irritate, annoy, or otherwise upset me. Rather, it had been put up to block the rays of the sun which, prior to the removal of the trees from our backyard, had not been able to reach their backyard, much less breach the sliding glass doors on the back of their house.

So all that obsessing I’d done was for naught. They weren’t trying to keep us from seeing into their windows, as I had once feared. Nor were they trying to avoid looking into ours. Nor were they trying to punish us for taking down all those trees and putting up that fancy new fence. They just wanted to sit, stand, cook, eat, and watch TV inside their own home without being blasted in the face by the light of the setting sun.

That seems like a reasonable desire. And while I still think they could have achieved this goal more easily and cheaply and with less effort (by, say, closing their blinds) or with a bit more focus on aesthetics, I will refrain from complaining. Especially when I consider all of the other modes and materials they could have used to shield themselves from the sun, I think it’s best to keep my lips zipped.

Would that I could do the same in relation to my next update, which concerns Vladmir—aka Vlad the Impaler. You may recall reading about Vlad in a post entitled “A Very Special Cat,” wherein I described his “Feline Autism.” To wit:

“This poor guy finds the idea of uninvited physical contact so repulsive that he’s learned to thwart any attempt to touch him before you’ve even committed to making the effort. Assisting him in avoiding unwanted affection is his coat, which features insanely long and sensitive guard hairs that allow him to feel your aura, and which prompt him to flatten each section of his body from his head to his tail as your hand moves through the air above him…If he does—by some miracle—allow you to pet him, for God’s sake don’t look at him while you do it. You can look at Vlad or you can pet Vlad but if you try to do both you will overload his circuits and he will bolt…So talk to him without looking at him or touching him. Or pet him without looking at him or talking to him.  But for the love of Mike, never do two of these things at once.”

In that post, I also wrote about his habit of delivering “four to six freshly ‘killed’ bouncy balls, fabric mice, and other prey to our room each night for us to admire when we wake up in the morning.”

This sort of thing now occurs throughout the day, with Vlad finding, killing, and presenting to me his gifts in whichever room I happen to be at the time. He has also become quite vocal about his achievements. Starting from the moment he closes his mouth around his ‘prey’ until he drops it on the floor for me, he will yowl loudly and forcefully through his fangs, as if to say ‘prepare to be amazed.”

In addition, in the months since I first wrote about him, Vlad has brought about the demise of several real rodents that somehow made their way into our home. Although I am somewhat unnerved by the knowledge that real rodents have somehow made their way into our home, I am happy we have Vlad around to keep them in check.

I am also happy to report that, in the months since I first wrote about him, we have learned something about Vlad that sheds a sheds a new and interesting light on his habits and activities. Specifically, we have learned that Vlad is not an ordinary cat but a Norwegian Forest Cat. We can’t say for sure since we can’t confirm the identity of his father, but all available evidence suggests that he is descended on both sides from Norwegian Forest Cats.

This evidence includes his physical features—most notably the length and texture of his coat, the size and shape of his head, and his heavily muscled body—as well as those of his mother, who is a slightly smaller version of Vlad. It also includes other traits, such as his distaste for being cuddled, his devotion to hunting, and his tendency to brag about it—all of which his mother also shares.

Of course, none of this proves that Vlad is a true blue Norwegian Forest Cat. Especially since he came from the Jarhead’s parents’ farm, where cats tend to mix and mate with abandon, that seems a remote possibility. Still, based on what we DO know about Vlad, his mom, and all the other cats on the farm, it’s fair to say that—as the Princess puts it: Vlad is so inbred that he’s a purebred.

And that, for better or worse, is the rest of the story.



On the Fence

It has been said—most notably by Robert Frost—that good fences make good neighbors. Having not had the privilege/misfortune of discovering firsthand the role of fences in the establishment and maintenance of positive relations with those whom I live near, I was content not to weigh in on the subject and to leave the debate over their value to the poets and politicians.

That is until last fall.

Prior to that, I had not been party to any property related disagreement or dispute, or any other matter that could be resolved with the erection of a fence. If there were fences on or near our property, they existed—like traffic signals in southern Italy—for purely ornamental purposes, or to contain children and other small pets. Thus, wherever we have lived, we have always managed to peacefully coexist with our neighbors.

That is, again, until last fall.

That summer—2013 to be precise—we put up a fence to obscure the hideousness that was revealed after we cleared several trees and an abundance of overgrown shrubs from our eastern border in order  to enlarge our backyard and reduce the risk of a dead and/or dying object falling on our home. It bears mention here that by abundance I mean more than 20 and by overgrown I mean “came in contact with the ooze from the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” or “I didn’t even know they could get that big.” We very much would have preferred to trim the darn things but every landscaper we spoke to said that ship had sailed and that our only option was to start over.

Unfortunately, like many of the long established residents of our neighborhood, the people who live in the house behind ours use their rear property line as a dumping ground for all the crap they don’t have room for elsewhere but aren’t ready to burn or take to the landfill. This includes such things as camper tops and assorted construction materials. Not wanting to look at that stuff anymore than I had wanted to look at overgrown shrubs and dying trees, we decided to stack the logs from said trees along the property line, thereby killing two birds with one stone. But despite the Jarhead’s considerable skill at handling wood, the log fence didn’t look much better than the crap the neighbors had stored behind it, and even at a height of 7 feet, it failed to conceal the chaos.

And so, the following summer we hired a contractor to put up a fence that would both hide the woodpile and hide all the stuff we had hoped to hide by putting up the woodpile. Like good citizens, we acquired all the proper permits, followed all the applicable ordinances, and left almost three times the required 5 feet of space behind the fence to allow access by utility workers, surveyors, appraisers, and tax assessors. Coincidentally, this also left precisely enough space between the fence and our wood pile to allow El Noble to comfortably wield a splitting maul and maneuver a wheelbarrow. When the fence was finished, we could still see a hint of the neighbors’ crap over the top of one section, but we decided to be good neighbors and ignore it.

Again, until that fall.

For not long after the fence went up and the leaves on the remaining trees started to come down, the neighbors put up what can only be described as an ugly lattice goal post. Standing 16 feet wide and comprised of two 2’ high by 8’ wide strips of lattice secured atop three 4”x4” posts, the structure towers eight feet in the air and, more importantly, two feet higher than our fence. It appeared one day out of nowhere about twelve hours after I last remember it not being there. Unpainted and alarmingly far from level or square, it looks like a seventh grade shop project gone horribly awry. It’s as if these people said to themselves, “Well, our pile of crap didn’t dissuade the Diersens from trying to improve the value and appearance of their property, perhaps this will do the trick.”

What had we done to deserve this? I wondered to myself, the Jarhead, and nearly anyone who would listen. Did they think we put up a woodpile and a fence so we could look in their windows? Did they think we put up a woodpile and a fence so they could look in OUR windows? Had I forgotten that I have floor to ceiling windows and inadvertently cleaned my house in the nude? Had the Jarhead and I forgotten we have floor to ceiling windows and inadvertently had sexual congress in the family room?

Accepting that I may have been a bit too hasty in assuming the structure did not serve a decorative purpose, I decided to revisit that possibility. Given all that can be found on cable TV of late, perhaps, I’d been too quick to discount that as a theory. Perhaps these people were fans of both the Design on a Dime AND Hillbilly Handfishin’, or followers of the Property Brothers AND Duck Dynasty. Perhaps they were just trying to bring a bit of rustic charm to an otherwise urbane junk pile.

Seriously, though. If this thing was intended to enhance the appearance of their back yard, why oh why wasn’t it level? Or attractive? If it’s not supposed to be decorative, then why is it there? And if it’s meant to be functional, what is its purpose?

The only explanation we could come up with—“we” being the Jarhead and I—is that they’re trying to keep us from seeing in their windows, which is both hilarious (since—newsflash—we’ve done everything within our power to avoid looking that direction since we moved here) and counterproductive (since it’s more likely to make people wonder what they’re trying to hide.)

The whole episode has been unsettlingly surreal—like having your drama-addicted friend suddenly tell you off and dump you for not being supportive enough after you’ve spent years listening to her repeatedly recount all the awful things her ex-husband did decades ago and resisting the urge to dump HER.

In any case, as the falling leaves signal the end of another summer, the Jarhead and I will soon be treated to a view of the lattice goal post that we can’t help but see from our kitchen table. And as we sip our coffee and read the paper each Sunday, we will be reminded of the fact that putting up a good fence somehow made us bad neighbors.


March 2018
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