LOVE THY NEIGHBOR by J. Hoyt
In early 1980, I moved into a new contemporary, California-cedar style subdivision near Marietta, Georgia. My house was situated on the corner lot at the main entrance. Boldly constructed in my front yard was a rustic sign the size of a SUV which read: HORSESHOE BEND. There were no liens or claims on my property and my attorney told me that the sign was legally mine. Not wanting to upset any of the neighbors before they got to know who was upsetting them, and being the new guy on the block, I let it stand. There would be plenty of time for creating a neighborhood ruckus later on. As it turned out, my patience was tested sooner than I'd expected. Unbeknownst to me, the mammoth sign was considered a community bulletin board. Within days, residents were posting all sorts of fliers advertising yard sales, cook-outs, lost animals, missing wives and homeowner's association meetings. All things considered, a subtle approach to the situation seemed to be the best solution.
The idea of planting a wall of Red Tip Photinias and assorted shrubbery around the front of my property, especially the HORSESHOE BEND sign, seemed like a good solution at the time. If I were polite and subtle, perhaps the residents would get the hint and the problem would vanish along with the view of the sign.
As it turned out, most of the residents were ravioli-raised refugees from New York City who had never been enlightened to the strange Southern tradition of respecting private property. Their homeowner's association had a swimming pool and tennis club that seemed to elevate their self esteem to an elitist position.
Three growing seasons passed and the removal of fliers and posters remained a daily chore. All the while, my wall of shrubbery grew quite well and became hardy because of proper trimming, watering and fertilizing. Eventually, the big HORSESHOE BEND sign became a faint image in the midst of a jungle of greenery.
One Saturday Morning, I looked out my window and was shocked to see a man with hedge trimmers and pruning shears cutting down my shrubs so that the precious sign would be visible again. Just as he was completing his destruction, I confronted him in the act red handed - or rather green handed - but the damage was already done. All of the things I ever thought about saying to a damn Yankee became bluntly audible in my front yard that morning for all the world to hear. All the while, I was fully aware that pruning shears can be a weapon and was adequately prepared to defend myself just in case. In spite of the devastation he had caused to my property, he was not the least bit apologetic. In fact, he was arrogant and defensive. His name was Gino. This magnificent example of Marsala mentality actually thought that the homeowner's association owned my property and he felt highly honored to do their dirty work.
As it turned out, there was a function and celebration at the clubhouse that evening honoring youth sports and outstanding young athletes. My across-the-street neighbor Charlie, a good ol' Southern boy who had stood on the curb that morning and observed the entire confrontation had two boys who were being recognized at the festivities. During the course of the evening, Charlie began teasing Gino about the pleasant neighborhood gathering which he had witnessed on my front lawn. Gino responded by arrogantly boasting that he was victorious in winning both the battle and the war because the homeowner's association got exactly what they wanted. Their fancy sign could now be clearly seen by everyone passing by.
The first thing Sunday morning, Charlie couldn't wait to come running over to tell me what Gino had said. Some of that leftover Vietnam frustration churned up from deep inside my gut. The next thing I knew, my freshly sharpened chain saw was transforming an expensive sign into a thousand splinters piled up on the roadside for everyone's viewing pleasure.
Thirty minutes later, a pickup truck slid into my driveway to a screeching halt. I immediately noticed a Delta Pilot's sticker on the windshield. Out stepped an angry man with bad attitude on a misguided mission. He lumbered out onto my lawn and immediately started ranting and raving...threatening me with a lawsuit.
I interrupted the man long enough to get his name. I then explained to him that I was going to swear out a warrant for Gino and have him arrested for destroying private property. I asked the man if I could give the police his name as the person responsible for posting Gino's bail bond. That question seemed to confuse him. In closing, I informed the pilot that since both my wife and I worked for Delta, we were going to report his poor eyesight and decision-making ability to Delta's personnel office. And the only other suggestion I offered this stunned pilot was this:
"GET OFF MY LAWN!!!"
Funny thing. He did exactly as he was told - and quickly. I never heard from any of them again.
We had purchased a small farm in the country south of Atlanta and were on the verge of moving. We put our house up for sale and moved, leaving the pile of kindling in the front yard. The house sold quickly. Perhaps it was the colorfully lighted 24 X 24 foot game room which I'd finished in the basement hidden behind a tool-laden wall next to the garage that helped seal the deal.
It was only after the closing that we learned that the new owners were members of an Oriental motorcycle gang and they had just bought themselves a new clubhouse with a two-car garage which would later be used as a repair shop.