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Building a Better Neighborhood

I want to tell you a little story, and it has a happy ending. The whole thing started with a call from our irrigator, a beloved person that is employed to water our little farm neighborhood several times a month. Greg knows everyone and everything and when he told me there had been an incident, naturally my husband and I were concerned.

I think what alarmed me most was the deception that initiated the event. It seems a woman with a baby stroller had been roaming our neighborhood, walking up to doors, knocking, and then leaving. Innocent enough, maybe a solicitor, but things went sideways when my neighbor walked out to her garage, noticed the woman walking away from her front door, and then saw the duct tape over her Ring camera.

I believe her exact words were, “What the hell?”

Now truthfully, I’m sorry I missed the show. But another neighbor got in on it, a good-ol-girl from Texas, and a chase ensued. These two ladies jumped into a pickup and followed the woman down the street. Never missing a step, the suspicious character ditched her baby stroller in a front yard and kept on running. No, there was no baby, just a balled-up sweatshirt hiding under a blanket. Thank goodness! But how deceitful can you get?

Those women were riled and chased her to a median in a busy street, taking her photo, telling her the police were on their way, and yes, she was taken into custody. Turned out she was on parole and desperate to get money. Down the street they found duct tape on another house. The ladies shouted loud and clear that she had better find another neighborhood as she wouldn’t have any luck with our street.

I’m not advocating any of you go out and do this. Things could have gone very wrong. Still, I was very proud of these women. They stuck together, helped each other out, and took responsibility to act. Then, I got to thinking…

Earlier in the year, Joe and I were talking about initiating a neighborhood get together to rub elbows with these people living near us. “Real low-key,” I said. “Like the Beer-Thirty we have every Friday in Wisconsin.” Every single Friday, with exception to funerals, weddings, and graduations, the neighborhood gathers at 4 p.m. in a specified garage to recount the week. It’s a little like therapy. The tractors and ATVs come out and the lawn chairs go in. It’s a time to catch up on the doins in the neighborhood, who needed help, who brought extra garden vegetables to share, and yes, what was the latest juicy gossip. (We avoid religion and politics). Beverages of choice are brought by each individual, stored, and replenished in an old refrigerator in the corner. It’s a come-as-you-are dress code with some farmers joining in after milking, making hay, or working on their equipment. Two hours later it all breaks up.

How would we do that with our city folks? The time was right to push our agenda.

“First, we gotta change the name to Beer-O-Clock and differentiate between the two events. Let’s make a flyer,” I suggested, “with the time and place. We open the side gate at 4 pm, put out some chairs and a large ice tub, let them bring their own drinks, and see what happens. If we get six people or so, then we’re doing good.”

Joe made a flyer and dutifully went door to door the week before the Beer-O-Clock event. He’s always been the talker in the family so I’m sure he went into overdrive. Neighbors promised to come, but you know, things happen. I had no preconceived notions as to how successful it would be.

Neighbors not only showed up, but they arrived on time and left hours later. One neighbor brought a lovely rose bouquet. Almost every home was represented and we neared 25-30 people in attendance. Wandering around the group I heard conversations about world travels, the best place to adopt a rescue dog, how incredibly difficult it is to trim the toenails on a resisting Great Dane, delivering a baby lamb, bets on when the bulk trash was actually going to leave the curb, and of course, the recent security event down the street. Everyone said they wanted to do it again.

My only regret was that I didn’t pass around a clipboard to get emails, phone numbers, family members, and critters at each home. Somehow or other an animal always gets lost. I have found horses in my backyard and there is a tortoise that makes frequent escapes. It would be nice to know where they belong and have support if any of mine decide to leave home.

I did have one other regret. The woman living directly next door to me has been there at least six years and I never met her until that day. I know her husband from all our animal talk and gardening and my yelling at the hawks to stay away from the chickens. It seems I amuse him when I dance and scream at the hungry predators. It turns out she is the sweetest thing ever and I lost a lot of time when I could have been enjoying her company. Shame on me.

Don’t you do the same. I feel safer knowing I can depend on my neighbors if it comes down to that one critical moment. It took nearly no time or energy to plan this event and while it may not take place every week like our country Beer-Thirty, we can certainly plan Beer-O-Clock a few times a year.

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