First of all, even though he said he was angry, he never seemed all that angry in his composure or speech patterns, no livid face or spitting while he was speaking. If he was angry, he wasn't mad-dog angry, perhaps more a habitual state of mind. To me he was more bitter--and certainly confrontational. It's sad that one of America's small farmers carries such unhappiness in his heart.
Ten Reveals from Our Conversation:
- "My wife told me to be nice when I talk to you." (Good idea.)
- "I'm not your neighbor. We just own adjoining land." (Well, I'm going to try to be a good neighbor.)
- "I see you've got a No Trespassing sign posted. You're from California, aren't you?" (Our insurance agent suggested the sign, and, yes, I lived in California 43 years ago.)
- "What gives you the right to buy this land? You're just driving up property prices." (We paid the asking price, actually lower than other comparative properties.)
- "So your wife's got a successful business?" (Yes, she does. Are you mean-mouthing my wife?"
- "My cows have gotten onto your land. What are you going to do about it because it's not my problem." (Then why are you here talking to me?)
- "He [a mutual business acquaintance] told you that? He's a liar!" (Hmmm?!)
- "I can't believe you still aren't arguing with me!" (And I don't intend to. How would it help anything?))
- "You can't solve anything about the cattle getting out, what with flooding and erosion at the creek fence. And I won't help you." (If it's a continuing problem, then working together is even more important.)
- "Well, if you want to, we can go down, and I'll help you get those cows back where they belong." (I really appreciate any advice and direction you can give me.)
"Those are good-looking hounds you've got there. These are the ones you take to coyote-hunting competitions?" The next thing I knew, I was looking at photos on his phone of his dogs at competitions, and learning that the next competition would be in Missouri in a couple of weeks. As my neighbor drove off to continue exercising his dogs, I felt that the conversation had been fairly pleasant, with whatever negativity that arose directed not at me--more a chewing of old bones, to continue the dog metaphor. I was able to provide some updates on our progress regarding our property's fences and cattle containment without unduly tripping any emotional triggers. A few days later, I saw him in his field, spraying multiflora, and I'm happy to say he waved at me--a low-key wave, but nonetheless, he waved!
In the end, I've decided that my neighbor is always welcome on my land, as long as he comes in peace; and it also seems fair that if I expect my neighbor to peacefully interact with me that I also have peace in my heart. We owe it to ourselves, and we owe it to the land.