Mondays–V4E9–Good Fences Make Good Neighbors

Way back about twenty-five years ago when my younger boys were in elementary school, they went through a phase of playing baseball with tennis balls in the backyard. My backyard is not huge, but it’s not small either. (Well, by today’s standards of new homes, it is huge.) The yard was chain-link fenced, mostly to ensure our dogs stayed where they belonged. But dogs staying where they belong and balls staying where they belong are two different things. Invariably, some of their balls bounced across the chain link fence into the neighbor’s yard. No big deal right?

My neighbors had never been friendly. In fact, when we bought the house and wanted to fence in a portion of our yard that abutted theirs, they would not allow us to tie into their fence. We had to sink a fence post six inches from theirs. We had large pine trees along our fence line and to ensure that my boys, who liked to play underneath the trees did not venture across the fence, they posted “No Trespassing” signs on the fence. Nice idea, but at the time, my boys didn’t know how to read.

Back to the ball playing. In an attempt to keep the balls in our yard, we put up two portions of privacy fence to act as a backstop. One morning, my super friendly neighbor rang my doorbell with a ball in hand. She proceeded to introduce herself, which I thought was nice, as I had never spoken to her before (they rarely were ever seen outside their home). I was wrong. She proceeded to tell me that the boys were not allowed to climb the fence to retrieve their ball if it went over the fence. When I asked if they could knock on her door and go through the gate, she responded with “No. We will throw them back after we mow the grass (i.e. after they had run over them.) I was blown away. I was raised in a neighborhood where everyone was friendly.

She and I exchanged some rather unpleasant words and low and behold, two weeks later a wooden privacy fence went up between the two yards. And as a further incentive to safeguard their property from my vicious boys, they drove three-inch long screws through the boards to our side of the fence just in case one of my boys or a pet tried to go between their privacy fence and ours, they would be met with a possible metal screw in the eye or leg. (Needless to say, we cut them all off–we should have called the police.)

Not too many years later, they moved out and the house became a rental. That was a nightmare in the beginning. They rented HUD. I’m sure there are many good people who appreciate the gift they are being given by the government to help them live in nice affordable housing, but unfortunately, we didn’t get them as neighbors. After a couple years of really sketchy neighbors, we got lucky and got nice ones. So nice that the man who lived there kept his lawn meticulous and even mowed my front yard for me. Since that time we’ve had several more neighbors, all of which proved to be no problem. Robert Frost said it best. “Good fences make good neighbors.” It’s true.

I don’t know what the normal lifespan is of a wooden privacy fence, but the neighbor’s fence began looking really sketchy several years ago. Many times we had to nail and screw the boards back to the frame and reinforce the landscape timbers at the bottom.

This year, we knew the fence was on its last leg. It was listing precariously toward our yard and during a reason wind storm, it swayed so dangerously that we had to prop it up. The renter in the house now is a single man and does not use the backyard. He pays to have the grass mowed, but that’s the extent of his upkeep. He’s finally stopped using his front porch as a cardboard box depository so that’s a plus. Besides, the fence is not his problem.

To assure the fence would be taken care of, we contacted our city’s Code Enforcement who viewed the fence and agree that it must be “repaired or replaced.” He sent the owner (our old friendly neighbor) a letter stating it must be done within thirty days or face penalties in court. Last Monday, the owner had the fence torn down.

We knew the owner wouldn’t let us know if he intended to remove the fence entirely between our two pieces of property. I’ve always lived my life with the motto of “Always Be Prepared”, but for some reason, this time I wasn’t and we had to scramble to put up a temporary fence to keep our dogs in our yard.

So now plans are in the works for us to install a wooden privacy fence, hopefully, this weekend. Digrite was here and marked the underground wires. Now to buy the fencing and get it in.


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