Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Neighbors

Up around 7:30 the morning after Christmas, I was outside ten minutes later yelling at Farina to shut up her non-stop barking. She ignored me, barking and snarling at nothing I could see. Everything looked normal, no squirrels, birds, armadillos or passing cars to spark her excitement, she mostly paced back and forth barking her fool head off at the high wooden fence that separates us from the neighbor’s house next door. 



One of Farina’s calmer moments

Sometime around 10 o’clock, thereabouts, Farina long over her noisy barking, neighbor Randy came over wondering if I’d seen or heard anything out of the ordinary around 7:30. Said he had gotten up and left in his truck to go fishing about 6:30 leaving his wife and brother-in-law asleep in the house. Once out in his boat, he remembered the Friday trash pick up and called home to tell Jeannie to put the trash and recycle bins out on the road. She told him to forget the trash and skedaddle home, the police were on their way, her car stolen out of the driveway and Jimmy’s truck tossed for valuables. The thief walked through the wide open gate in broad daylight, rummaged around in Jimmy's truck, then found Jeannie's car also unlocked but with the keys on the driver's side floor. He jumped in and made a getaway with Jeannie looking out the window just in time to see Santa Claus speeding out through the gate in her car. And there the source of Farina’s barking is revealed. Unfamiliar smell in the yard next door and she stood at the fence sounding an alert the whole time. In most cases out here, if a stranger walks silently through an unlocked gate and up to the house—even one in a Santa suit—he can expect someone from inside to step out the front door either shooting or waving a gun.

Gate & garage open and nobody home 

I have wondered half a dozen times about Randy’s & Jeannie’s habit of always leaving their gate unlocked and wide open, garage door yawning wide and nobody at home.

……………

You might remember my neighbor down the road. He’s the good guy always willing to help out, always full of backwoods tales, the one with the gap in his front teeth who said he has a “dentist” that works out of the trunk of his Pontiac Le Grand and uses laughing gas as an anesthesia. That’s Manny. We were chatting at the gate the other day, him telling me, “Hell, I'll shoot the *!!%#^!&*^%#. I ain’t got long to live anyways.” He was talking about the rednecks over the way with their giant killer dogs, muscle cars, all night Loretta Lynn parties, and Sunday afternoon Iraqi war re-enactments. In fact, for the past couple of months the dogs are rarely seen, the parties diminished and the big gun shoot-outs even rarer. Seems most of what they do over there these days is run heavy duty equipment like road graders and other Caterpillar giants. Hard to tell what it is they’re doing with all the big yellow machinery, but what used to be invisible behind the trees is now a house revealed by the gouging out of trees and brush. Kind of like they are preparing the command post in a jungle hot zone, 500 feet on four sides of the house denuded of all but flat grassless dirt between them and an encroaching enemy. One thing easy to see without the wall of enclosing trees is the enlarged alligator pond and the rough and tumble 4-wheeler track running around the property.

View of ploughed up ground once blocked by trees

Couple of days after our conversation, the whole area a chilly mess of mud and mist, I was hoping there would be no need to go out. Manny called needing a ride to the store for some smokes. I appreciate his no car, no driver’s license situation and try hard not to turn down his infrequent requests for a ride. So, we drove south two miles to the Kangaroo Store where gas is down to $2.20 and three packs of Manny smokes cost $15. He told me that word from Randy was there's been no news from the police about Jeannie’s stolen car. Doesn’t surprise me. If they haven't found it by now, it's probably long gone, a diminishing blip on the radar headed for the North Pole.


Far down the road Manny’s small trailer sits snug under the trees. 
Yep, that’a toilet just to the left of center.

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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America