gall and gumption

Sunday, April 27, 2008

My Neighborhood

Yesterday afternoon, deer were romping about in the meadow. The dogs were inside. Sweetie went out and it's so hot that she was too lethargic to get very excited, just held her nose up and took notes. Now that they have some room in which to exercise their preferences, I notice a distinct dislike of brisk activity in the warm daylight hours. Basically I let them out of the house in the morning while I’m getting ready for work, and after a sniff round the yard they just lie down again. Sometimes Sweetie doesn’t even want to get off the sofa. She is not a morning person. When the weather was cool, they would spend the whole day, if I was home, running up and down barking at things. Or barking at nothing.

In the evening we took a walk. In the meadow Sweetie found a turtle, an Eastern Box Turtle. It's about half a mile or so to his house, across the meadow and then through the fence and over the stream and across his pasture which is about twice the size of the meadow. From my front yard I can just see the light in his barn. That's the only light I see in any direction.

I haven’t been over there in a while; the last time I went through the pasture the horses kept following me around which was fine with me but it made the dogs absolutely loopy. We took our long walk along the trail in back and then I was standing on the driveway, wondering whether I wanted to go through the pasture and do the crazy dog-and-horse dance again, or whether I wanted to be dodging cars on the dirt road. And here came the horses again. They are curious and fearless, and one pony in particular looks at the dogs longingly; he likes to play tag with dogs. But my dogs are idiots. I had just about made my mind up to take the road again when the two dogs made one immense simultaneous lunge. I can’t say I felt any of this happen, it was so fast; there I was, laid out face down in the mud, half of me in the pasture, half of me on the other side of the fence. The dogs turned around to see what was wrong and I went into that zone, that zone that exists for me on the far side of rage, as if it is not possible to be as furious as I would like to be, no, I’m sort of catapulted over rage into the still waters beyond it. My dad can send me to that place. On the way home I speculated that if anyone in the house had happened to look out the window just then… the thought kept me from going back over there for weeks. But yesterday was just such a perfect day for that walk. We are staying away from the pond and the trail in back because I suspect that lots of geese are nesting and hatching there.

Ben and his girlfriend told me that a one night a week or so ago some guy was sort of hanging about in his SUV along the stretch of road between Ben’s place and mine, harassing other drivers. He had a loudspeaker or megaphone and was shouting drunkenly through it. I have encountered this particular form of amusement before: you drive past a jeep with a couple of dudes in it and someone shouts at you through a megaphone. He may have gotten separated from the rest of his party and was just trying to keep the fun going on his own, or perhaps he came into the area to dispose of an evening’s worth of Bud Light cans, and then stayed, the way some moose in Maine will wander into a suburb and fall in love with a lawn ornament or a cow or a pickup truck.

Anyway Ben, hearing all the commotion, actually got in his truck and drove over to see if I was OK. I never knew he did. He came by, my gate was closed, the dogs were in the house, I was fast asleep. I would never have found out if I hadn’t happened to wander over there yesterday evening. He went back home, the drunk guy with the bullhorn for some inexplicable reason followed him up his long driveway to his house. “He might have thought that’s where the party was,” said Ben. The guy sat there for a while, long enough for Ben to get his tags and call the cops. They caught up with this visitor down the road.

The thing is I’m just over the line between suburbia and the south. Another neighbor close by must be one of the biggest landowners in the county. It was one of the strange things about moving out here that my house was halfway between two Christmas tree and pumpkin farms; the cheerful smiley one is a very successful amusement park. It has a volcano, a petting zoo, a pirate ship, a big slide, a flying saucer and a rocket, all homemade, and on weekends near Halloween and Christmas the place draws big crowds.

Up the road the other side of me in the dark woods the neighbors I’ve never seen have their tree farm, which they advertise with the signs that look like evil elves from horror movies. He actually has a couple of thousand acres. Ben tells me that the reason the Christmas tree signs look so evil is that he recycles the Halloween pumpkin signs to make them. He also painted an evil face on a tree stump at the corner of my road. The family resemblance to the elves is too close for doubt. It’s an enterprising family, doing whatever they can to make a living off the land—for instance, by charging trucks to come in for decades and dump dirt until they have their own personal mountain, visible for miles. Now they want to get into the home made amusement park business, and are busy constructing no one knows what. I hear on good authority that it’s a castle. Ben thinks it’s some attractions.

Ben is a carny, I think I may have told you that. He operates carnival rides around the area, never traveling more than an hour or so from home in the season. He does all his own repairs and maintenance on his equipment, and looks after the 22 horses as well. The good thing about it is that he only has to work six months a year. Except that maintaining 22 horses and all the gear is a year-round job all by itself.

He isn’t really a suburban person at all. He is self-reliant, shrewd, practical, and utterly without pretension. He’s like the sort of people who must have lived out here before the suburbs moved in. Not large-scale farmers, just people with their way to make and enough land to park the half dozen or so vehicles they needed to make it go, open to turning a dollar out of whatever might turn up, such as truckloads of dirt. Not consumers exactly. The drunk with the megaphone and his brethren of the Bud Light cans and abandoned mattresses and TV sets (an abandoned TV set is an irresistible shooting target) are sort of part of the landscape. I’m in yee haw!!!! country, Snopes country, but around here, at least, it seems to be shrinking habitat. But then there’s my neighbor, who drives over to make sure I’m OK and doesn’t even bother to tell me. Interesting.

I told my mother the story about Ben and the drunk, thinking she’d like to know my neighbors watch my back, so to speak. Here is her reply:

Thank you for sharing that with me ... I should sleep soundly knowing
that there is a drunken maniac roaming the neighbourhood, probably
with an axe and a shotgun in the trunk of his car.

Oh, and yesterday afternoon while I was puttering in the kitchen the kitchen cabinet fell off the wall. Luckily it landed on the washing machine. This morning I had to dismantle it, it was sort of sagging there with all its contents underneath it. I didn’t think I’d be able to do it, but I did. And I got some new shelves to replace this cabinet (hastily and badly thrown up by my landlord) and that means I get to use my power drill!

AND while I was at the supermarket I found a tick in my hair. That was about my fifth tick of the day (though not the last) and at that point there was a certain amount of heebie and jeebie under my skin as you can imagine.

After the visit to Ben I did my usual evening thing, sit outside and write for a couple hours and take phone calls. Not many phone calls last night, so I wrote for longer than usual, ate a snacky dinner and then watched British comedy reruns on PBS. It’s sort of a ritual. Usually I turn it off right after Fawlty Towers because I don’t like The Vicar of Dibley. Well, last night I was still sort of fidgety and feeling the pressure: the line my mother quotes to me is “I have not done the things I ought to have done and have done the things I ought to have done. Or something like that.” So I stayed up half an hour longer with my laptop, trying to blog, and the Vicar of Dibley was on and it was the one about blessing the animals and it made me cry.


At 6:22 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"and have done the things I ought not to have done" would make sense.
Didn't you once find a possum in your hair?
I'm actually just writing to say how fine I think this is.

At 2:33 PM, Blogger L7 said...

and then stayed, the way some moose in Maine will wander into a suburb and fall in love with a lawn ornament or a cow or a pickup truck.

I love that line.

At 2:43 PM, Blogger Kia said...


It was Bob who woke up with the possum in his hair. I didn't believe him till the dog came into the bedroom.

It was a young possum. Bob's hair is more possum-like than mine, so maybe he thought it was a nice place to take a nap, like Mama possum's back.

At 10:21 PM, Blogger L7 said...

Maybe I am making this up, but I remember you had a centipede marching through your braids.

At 10:37 PM, Blogger Kia said...

No, you're not making it up. That was when I was in St. Croix. It marched right past my ear; I can still remember what it sounded like. And then in St. Kitts one actually crawled out from under my pillow and bit me on the arm, a couple weeks after I was attacked. But it wasn't much of a bite, it didn't break the skin and I had no ill effects. Anyway I can certainly attest that they bite.

At 10:39 PM, Blogger Kia said...

And once when I was living at The Hovel, in Isla Vista, a possum fell out of the rafters and landed on my dress right after I had stepped out of it to get into the bathtub.

At 6:28 AM, Blogger Kitchen Cabinet Refacing said...

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