Saturday, November 12, 2022

Just Being Neighborly

"I'm an angry man" were the first words my neighbor spoke to me when I first met him. He had pulled his ATV up onto my gravel in front of my travel trailer, dismounted, and settled himself, both legs solidly planted. His last words an hour and a half later were "And this is the last time I'll ever speak to you."

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:
  1. "My wife told me to be nice when I talk to you." (Good idea.)
  2. "I'm not your neighbor. We just own adjoining land." (Well, I'm going to try to be a good neighbor.)
  3. "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.)
  4. "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.)
  5. "So your wife's got a successful business?" (Yes, she does. Are you mean-mouthing my wife?"
  6. "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?)
  7. "He [a mutual business acquaintance] told you that? He's a liar!" (Hmmm?!)
  8. "I can't believe you still aren't arguing with me!" (And I don't intend to. How would it help anything?))
  9. "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.)
  10. "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.)
I did speak with my neighbor a second time, though, no matter his words. I flagged him down as he was idling down the road in his side-by-side UTV, exercising his dogs. This time, I remembered and utilized the Mark Twain quote: It's hard not to like someone who loves your work, your children, or your dogs." And it just so happens that I do like dogs.

"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.

Follow by Email

* indicates required


  1. Tom, you’re a pretty exceptional human being to handle that situation the way you did. I applaud and admire you.

    1. Thank you! Although it was an intentional choice to not argue, I think it was a bit of luck too that I didn't get angry. He was pretty rough.

  2. One of the most important lessons I've learned in life is never to return anger with anger because it doesn't solve problems, it just makes them worse. It's no real surprise to me that you've learned that lesson too.

    1. I have learned that lesson. I'm responsible for my own behavior, not that of others. I did feel the effects of the encounter for a couple of days, though. I felt like I'd been emotionally bushwacked. Is "bushwacked" a term known in Britain? Ambushed.

    2. We see enough Transpondian TV to kniow what 'bushwhacked' means even though we don't use the phrase all that much.

    3. To be honest, I don't use the phrase all that much. I'm glad because I don't want "bushwhacked" to be part of my reality. Thanks for commenting, always glad to hear from you.