A couple of weeks ago Rand Paul, a US Senator from Kentucky, was allegedly attacked by his immediate neighbor, Rene Boucher. Paul suffered a few broken ribs as a result of that physical assault. Boucher pleaded not guilty to the attack and the reason or reasons for the rage remain unclear.
Before I go on, I have to tell you a preconception of mine which was wrong. When I first heard the news, I thought it was just two “rednecks” dueling it out. As it turned out, Paul was an ophthalmologist before he became a politician, and Boucher a practicing anesthesiologist. So instead of going to medical school learning to save people, Paul decided to practice verbal boxing in the Senate, and Boucher replay the civil war with his neighbor.
Joking aside, I had — past tense — some bad experience with one of my neighbors too. No broken bones, but it was unpleasant still.
I bought my current house about 12 years ago. It is a small nondescript rancher. It is an old house, now about 100 years of age. When I bought it, it was in pretty bad shape. So I decided to spend some money fixing it. Part of the work was to build a concrete driveway leading to the garage in the back of the house. As a courtesy, I looked up my neighbor’s name in the public records, wrote them a letter telling them what was going to happen and asked them to pardon the noise and mess from the construction. I also said that the driveway would be built about 2 or 3 inches from an existing fence between our properties. They wrote back, the husband did, and told me that they did not agree with the assumption that the fence was the property line between our two houses, so they could not agree to my laying a new driveway that way. I was a little surprised. I sent them a second letter and said that they were welcome to prove where the property line should be if they gave me a surveyor’s report. I was being a little facetious in suggesting that because I knew they would not spend a few hundred dollars to win that improbable argument. They did not respond. After waiting for a few days, I gave my contractor the go-ahead with the driveway.
It took my contractor and his crew a couple of months to finish the remodeling. After they were done and gone, I went to the property one day to savor the finished product. The next step was to do some landscaping. I was standing in the weed-infested backyard trying to plan out what to do when I saw a plastic bag of something in the middle of it. I picked it up. It was a couple of pounds heavy. It did not smell good. It smelled like feces. I looked inside. It was dog poop. I think it was as I did not look any further. I tied it up and threw it into the garbage can.
Up to this day I have no proof who put that welcoming present there. I had my suspicion that it was the same neighbor who did not like my new driveway. I wanted to confront him about that many times over the years because he never showed much friendliness as a neighbor would toward a new comer. I figured that I was going to rent the place out after all the work was done. So why create an unnecessary confrontation, my passive brain told me.
I rented that house out shortly afterward. Over the years tenants came and went. Once in a while I would chit-chat with them, and sometimes I would casually ask them how they got along with the neighbor on the driveway side. The responses ranged from “OK, we don’t talk much” to “Not good, they aren’t very friendly people.”
Three years ago, because of personal reasons, I moved back into that house myself. My old tenants were right. That particular neighbor was not very friendly. The wife and I would exchange “hello” when we met in the front of the house. But the husband would not acknowledge my presence. So one day when I was in a fairly good mood and saw him alone in front of house I said “Hi, Tom!” (Not his real name.) He returned my greeting and said “Hi, Cam!” Son of a gun, he actually knew my name.
A few weeks later, he knocked at my door and reminded me that the headlights of my old VW were on. After 12 years, Tom and I finally became friends, sort of. We haven’t invited each other over for beer yet. But I am happy to be where we’ve come so far.
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