Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Refuge From the World

My house sits on a rise overlooking the Umatilla River. Directly east, across the river, is Riverfront Park. The view of the winding river, walking trails, small trees and brush is unobstructed by human habitation. We occasionally see eagles circling overhead and frequently have quail and pheasant running across the lawn. The three acre lot size gives us a comfortable cushion from our neighbors. The backyard is serene. The river can be heard tumbling over the rocks below.

There are signs that spring is coming. The tulips have just broken to the surface and the flower beds are spotted with green. Unfortunately, it’s the green of hearty weeds that have established their dominance in the flower beds. I’m looking forward to puttering around in the yard. In the spring and summer we spend a lot of time in the backyard. In the afternoons the house casts a shadow on the patio and creates a cool retreat from the sun. Our house is a refuge from the outside world..

Yesterday as I turned off the road onto our driveway I noticed that a neighbor had posted a sign on her lawn. The spray-painted sign was pointed toward the front yard of her next door neighbor, Jerry. Jerry is a friendly guy who waves every time we drive by. For the fifteen years that we have lived here, he’s been a good neighbor. He collects our mail when we’ve been on vacation and he’ll sometimes surprise us by mowing the weeds in our front pasture. (Okay, “pasture” might be a glorified description. It’s just a fenced field with weeds.) We’ve never asked him to mow, but when he’s got his mower hooked up to the tractor and he has the mowing mojo going,  we appreciate his efforts. Jerry is retired, but he’s always busy. He does odd jobs with his tractor and he raises a few animals on his small acreage. My husband and Jerry frequently chat when they’re both outside “working the land,” male bonding over discussions of the intricacies of their tractors or the best fishing spots.

Now when Jerry walks his land this is what he sees:

He no longer has a safe refuge from the outside world. Every time he leaves his house he is faced with the wrath of his neighbor.

What did he do to deserve this?

When the house next door to him was sold over a year ago, the new neighbor decided to open a dog grooming and boarding service. She tacked up a sign on the road and opened for business. Soon there were many dogs barking all hours of the day and night in her backyard. Jerry called the county to inquire if our area was zoned for this business use. Apparently it was not because the county sent someone out to her house/business and told her to remove her business sign and cease operating an unlicensed business.

This should have been the end of the story, but why respond responsibly? 

She set up a stereo in her window pointing outward toward Jerry’s house and blared country music, and then she left the house.  The music plays all day and can be heard well beyond her property line.   I think she learned this one from an episode of The Sopranos! She called the country and reported that Jerry had too many livestock for the size of his acreage. He had two cows and a couple of sheep. Jerry had to get rid of the sheep. And, she posted the sign that says “Stop being a peeping Tom.”
The sign is visible from the road. Everyone who drives by reads it. Friends who have visited me think I’ve got a pervert living across the street. Jerry’s enjoyment of his home is destroyed. Every time he goes outside he is psychologically assaulted. And I am sad every time I drive by to see his enjoyment of his retirement shattered.

A poem by Robert Frost states that “Good fences make good neighbors.” Sometimes it takes more than a fence.

What would you do in this situation?


  1. Wow, what a post! I can't even believe the mentality of some people. This neighbor obviously has some major problems. If he were to file charges for defamation of character, she could just say she wasn't talking about him. I'm sorry that this toxic neighbor is making life miserable for all of you.

    Thanks for the encouragement on my blog. A post will be up today or tormorrow.

  2. Perhaps a counter sign of "Stop walking naked in your front yard". Would put an end to the nonsense.


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