Around here, instead of that expression “can’t tell her ass from a hole in the ground” we should use “can’t tell skunk from weed.” The two smell similar, but no respectable inhabitant of my rural community should lack the ability to discern the difference between the two odors. Therefore, my next-door neighbors have no business living in this part of the world. They should be deported to the Bronx.
On a recent lovely summer evening in the country, while lying in bed reading, with my bedroom window open, I was accosted by the stench of skunk. I had to close the window. Ugh. A few minutes later my husband came to tell me that the neighbor-lady telephoned him and angrily demanded that he stop smoking weed next to her house. Wait what?! He informed her that he doesn’t smoke weed. She told him that she could smell it, and it was unacceptable. Did she want him to take a lie-detector test or what? He did not have his office window open and did not smell the skunk so he didn’t figure it all out right away. And he’s so damn polite. She deserved to be blasted but he just told her he wasn’t smoking weed and left it at that. She didn’t give up so easily. She proceeded to order him to go check to see what our youngest son was up to because it must be our son who was smoking weed next to her house. She knew for a fact that someone was smoking weed next to her house. I’m inclined to think it was her. Something was giving her hallucinations and she sure wanted to blame us for them.
My husband informed her, with remarkable restraint, that the youngest son in question moved to Oakland seven years ago, and is rarely at our house. Isn’t here now. I would not have been so kind to her. I would have pointed out that if someone in our house was smoking weed, at our own house, on our own property, in our own yard, it’s none of her damn business. I told my husband about the skunk spraying in the neighborhood. The neighbor was smelling the skunk and thought it was weed. The only other scenario I can conjure is that it was a skunk smoking weed. She should have called the skunk.
OK, well, I guess this is officially a rant about my neighbors. Pardon me for breathing. This incident tells me that these neighbors have been stewing about our behavior for quite some time and they are itching for excuses to self-righteously chew us out. I didn’t realize that they are investing so much energy disapproving of us. I thought it amusing when the neighbor-man offered to help me replant my lawn (which I had systematically murdered). I thought it amusing when they planted a privet hedge along the property line to block their view of my wild back yard. Now I am not so amused.
Last year the neighbor-lady called me to complain that we had ants on a tree in our back yard that bordered her property, and she wanted us to call an exterminator and spray the tree with toxic chemicals to prevent the ants from creeping into her yard and devouring her garage. If that didn’t work, she suggested we chop down the tree. An ancient oak tree, hundreds of years old! That’s what they did. They chopped down an ancient oak tree on their property because it had ants and birds on it. Ants and birds can damage houses, you know, and they are opposed to such damage.
Last summer the neighbor-man accosted my husband to berate him for our anti-suburban landscaping. The neighbor-man implied that my husband should get his renegade gardener-wife under control. The short version of our landscaping approach is that we replaced our lawn with drought-tolerant, deer-resistant plants. Our neighbors are still pining for our disappeared lawn. We also don’t pick up and remove the oak leaves dropped by the gorgeous tree in our front yard. Oak trees drop leaves. That’s what they do for a living. The neighbor-man has a vendetta against dropped leaves. He warned my husband that he and “some of the other neighbors” (as far as we can tell he means his wife and dog) were discussing measures they could take to force us to return our yard to more appropriate landscaping. (The dog suggested it could poo on our rosemary plants.) This is the same guy who shot a woodpecker out of one of our trees with a BB-gun. My husband was not so nice about that. He told him if he ever does that again we’re calling the cops. He has a serious thing about woodpeckers. Maybe a giant pileated pecked him to death in a previous life. Why does he even live in a rural area? We live in nature here. We live with critters here. He should move to Los Angeles and shoot rats and cockroaches.
This man’s yard consists mainly of rocks and grass. He regularly brings in teams of workers to beat his yard into submission using extremely noisy power tools. They mow his rocks. They turn on gas-powered leaf blowers at 8:00 in the morning on a Saturday and blow every blessed leaf off his lawn, rocks, and driveway. They then pick the leaves up in their teeth and spit them into a bag and set it on fire. His yard adheres to the inedible pristine-boring genre of gardening. Not even a stray flower blossom appears to ruin the antiseptic calm of his lawn. He poisons the gophers. Sprays the ants. I shudder to think what he uses to kill the weeds. Of course, all those toxins run off into my yard. So I’m only pretending to grow organic produce because I’m living in the path of his chemical drift. But do I call him up late at night to demand that he stop using weed killers and lawn fertilizer?
The skunk-and-weed incident reveals that the needle on the neighbors’ disapproval-rating-o-meter is pointing to the hysterical-obsessive-dislike reading for me and my yard. Who knew? I expect them to start leaving threatening notes in my mailbox complaining that my weeds are keeping them awake at night making all that racket growing. They probably blame us for attracting birds to the neighborhood with our grape arbors and sunflowers; for attracting bees and butterflies with our giant sage, bottlebrush tree, and flowers. They have obviously never learned about the birds and the bees. Or about the destruction of the environment and death by toxins. They are not concerned about this generation, let alone the seventh generation. Sigh.
I’m going to put up a sign next to my strawberry patch directing the skunks to the neighbors’ yard. The neighbors won’t notice it because it will be obscured by their privet hedge. Besides, they don’t speak skunk.