When new people moved in across the road from us several years ago, my husband Steve and I went over and introduced ourselves. The new neighbors were a middle-aged couple and their adult son. Since they said they owned a car repair shop in town, from that point on Steve and I referred to them in private as the Mechanics. We have private names for all of our neighbors. We call one the Golfer because he likes to golf in our field. We call another Chipper Shredder because he is always cutting things down and running them through a chipper. Steve and I welcomed the Mechanics to the neighborhood; something we would not have done if we had known what was to come.
It all started with a mailbox. In rural delivery areas, it is common for all of the mailboxes to be on one side of the road so that mailman only has to go in one direction to deliver mail to everyone in the area. Where we live, the mailboxes are on our side of the road. So the folks who live on the other side the road, including the Mechanics, have their mailboxes on our property. This was never an issue until the Mechanics made it one.
The spring after they moved in, I saw daffodils growing around their mailbox. Although they looked pretty, I thought it was odd that they chose to plant them there, given that it was not their property. But hey, if someone plants flowers on your property, you oughta enjoy them. So we did.
A few weeks later, however, the whole area looked like a blast zone. Nothing was growing for twenty yards on either side of the Mechanic’s mailbox. The whole area was full of dead grass and dead crown vetch, a ground cover planted there intentionally so that the area, which is somewhat steep, does not need to be mowed.
Steve went across the road and had a chat with Mr. Mechanic. He asked him to not use any more weed killer around the mailbox. Mr. Mechanic said that he had sprayed the weed killer because he saw some poison ivy near his mailbox. Steve told him he could pull the poison ivy out of the ground but not to spray any more weed killer since it also killed off the crown vetch, which if given time, would crowd out the poison ivy. Steve and I both thought that was the end of it as, by the end of the summer, the area around the Mechanic’s mailbox was green again.
But the next spring, instead of using weed killer, the Mechanic’s began dumping all of the grass trimmings from when they mowed their yard around the mailbox. Soon, the grass trimmings were a foot deep and covered a ten-foot wide area on each side of the mailbox. Steve went across the road to have a chat.
When he returned he told me that this time he chatted with Mrs. Mechanic who tried to tell Steve that she could do whatever she wanted to do in the area around their mailbox because it was within 25 feet of the center of the road. Steve tried to explain to her that no, she could not do whatever she wanted around the mailbox because her mailbox was on our property. He tried to explain to her that the state can take that 25 feet from the center of the road if needed, to expand the road, or make other changes necessary for the public good, but that those rights did not belong to her. She insisted he was wrong.
He finally got through to her by telling her that he was going to get his tractor and pile ground all along the front of her property. When she told him he couldn’t do that, he said, “I’ll stay within 25 feet of the center of the road.” It was only then that she agreed that they would stop dumping their lawn trimmings around the mailbox.
Later that summer I arrived home to find a beautiful Bernese Mountain Dog in the yard playing with our Saint Bernard, Neva. Neva was confined by a fence and she and the Bernese Mountain Dog were running back and forth along the fence, having a great time. It was a gorgeous dog. I had no idea where he came from, but since he was wearing a collar, I tried to catch him so that I could help him get home safely. But this dog would not come to me and rather than let me catch him, he ran off across the road and out of sight.
A week or so later, the Bernese Mountain Dog was back. Again, I couldn’t catch him and he took off across the road. After doing some checking with some of the neighbors, I learned that the dog belonged to the *Miller family. I knew the family, they lived one road over from us and their backyard adjoined the Mechanic’s backyard.
So the next time the Bernese Mountain Dog showed up in our yard, Steve called the Millers and left a voice mail, telling them that their dog was at our house, that we couldn’t catch it and that we were worried that it might get hit by a car crossing the road. But no one came over for the dog and again, he made his way home, crossing the busy road.
Soon, a pattern developed. The Bernese Mountain Dog would visit on Wednesdays around 5:30 in the afternoon. And every time he came over, one of us would call the Millers and leave a message but no one ever came over for the dog. Until that fall when the Bernese Mountain Dog showed up on a Sunday morning.
It was odd to see the dog there on a Sunday given that he usually showed up on Wednesdays. Again we called the Millers and left a message. But this time when the dog left, he did not go across the road. Instead, he ran into the woods that border the soybean field.
Later that day, as I opened the front door to let in some fresh air, I saw one of the Miller’s teenage boys standing right in front of our porch. Assuming he was about to knock on the door, I asked if I could help him. He told me he was looking for his dog.
“He’s not here. He was here this morning, but he ran off, down through the field and into the woods,” I said as I pointed in the direction of the woods.
“He ran off into the woods?”
“Yes, a few hours ago. The last I saw him, he was headed into those woods down there.”
“Okay,” the boy said and he started running towards the woods.
“Wait! What’s his name?” I asked.
The boy stopped running and said, “Deuce”.
“Okay, maybe the next time he comes over I’ll be able to catch him since I know his name. He’s over here a lot, you know. He plays with my dog.”
The boy shot me a confused look and took off running towards the field.
A few hours later, the telephone rang. It was Mr. Miller, calling to ask if we had seen his dog. I told him that the last time I saw the dog, he was running towards the woods that run along the soybean field.
And then Mr. Miller said, “Towards the woods?”
I was getting frustrated, but I wasn’t sure why. “Yes, towards the woods. Just like I told your son earlier. Your son said the dog’s name is Deuce and I told him that maybe the next time the dig comes over I’ll have more luck catching him since I know his name.”
“The next time he comes over?”
“Yes. He’s over here a lot. Generally on a Wednesday around 5:30. We’ve left several voice mails about it because we’re worried he might get hit by a car going back and forth across the road. He’s a very nice dog, but I can’t catch him. If I could, I’d walk him home myself.”
“Uh…Okay, thank you,” he said and he hung up.
The following week when Steve was mowing the front yard, Tom, who lived next door to the Mechanics, came over and told Steve that we were the talk of the neighborhood. When he asked him what he meant by that Tom said that Mr. Miller had come over to his place the previous Sunday and told him that his dog Deuce had wandered off and they couldn’t find him anywhere. Mr. Miller told Tom that Mr. Mechanic said that they wouldn’t find the dog because Steve had killed it and dug a hole with his tractor and buried the dog in our yard. Mr. Miller said that when Mr. Mechanic told him that, he sent his son over to our yard to look for a grave but that I had told his boy that the dog had run off into the woods. He said his boy had checked our yard and the woods but did not find any sign of a grave.
Tom told Steve that he told Mr. Miller that he didn’t believe we would harm his dog. He told him that we have always had dogs, Saint Bernards, and are dog lovers. Tom said that he told Mr. Miller that there was no way we would intentionally hurt a dog.
Steve asked Tom if the Millers found Deuce and he said yes, that the dog was back home but he didn’t know how the dog got there. Steve thanked Tom for telling him what happened and waited for an opportunity to talk to Mr. Miller.
A few days later, Steve saw Mr. Miller out cutting his grass and Steve went over. Mr. Miller confirmed that Mr. Mechanic had told him that we killed Deuce and buried him in our yard. Steve said he told Mr. Miller that we would never harm his dog and he also told him about the problems we had with the Mechanics and the mailbox.
At that point, Mr. Miller told Steve that he had his own run-ins with the Mechanics. He said that earlier in the summer, he found three marijuana plants growing on his property and that whoever had planted them had also cut branches off of one of his trees so that the plants could get more sunlight.
Mr. Miller told Steve that raising three teenage boys he has seen it all so he assumed that one of his boys had planted the pot. But all three of them denied it and he believed them. So, not knowing whose plants they were, he called the Pennsylvania State Police.
It turned out the adult son of the Mechanics had cut the Miller’s tree and planted the marijuana on the Miller’s property. Mechanic Jr. received criminal charges as a result. So the Mechanics, who had issues with us over the mailbox and with the Millers because of the drug charges their son was facing, concocted a story that attempted to pit us against each other. How demented is that? How evil is that?
Mr. Miller told Steve that Deuce was gone for several days until someone finally managed to catch him. He was six miles from home by then. He said that Deuce ran off that Sunday because one of his sons decided to do some target shooting in the yard. Deuce, who was terrified of gunshots, ran off when he fired the first round. Mr. Miller said he was furious with the boy because he knew he wasn’t allowed to shoot his gun on a Sunday or if the dog was outside.
Mr. Miller apologized to Steve for the numerous visits Deuce made to our house. He said the dog would get out when left under the care of one of his sons and when we’d call and leave a message, the boy would delete it so that he wouldn’t get in trouble for letting the dog run loose.
The Mechanics sold their house and moved last spring. Not one neighbor went over and said goodbye or wished them well. The new folks who moved in seem nice. They keep to themselves and haven’t messed up our land or planted any marijuana. I hope they stay a while.
(*Last name changed to protect the family’s privacy.)
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