“Okay, the neighbors think I’m sellin’ dope.”
– J. Cole
One thing we’ve learned is that when you buy and move onto a new parcel of land, you inevitably inherit the neighbors as well. This realization first entered my cognition months before we ever broke ground, when I heard in passing about so-and-so to the north of us punching so-and-so to the south of us in the face and breaking his nose. Hmm, I thought passively at the time, interesting neighborhood.
Interesting neighborhood it has turned out to be, and on Thursday I was trellising tomatoes, as some neighbor or another raked our hay field so some neighbor or another could bale it. After so much deliberation on that hay, I no longer had a clue who was doing what, but I knew it wasn’t us, and that was okay. After finishing and parking the tractor, the undisclosed neighbor started down the hill towards me and I ducked indiscreetly between tomato rows, hoping to avoid interaction. I surfaced cautiously, looked up, and my suspicions were confirmed. Bob. Son of a bitch…
“Hey Bob, it’s good to see ya…”
As is our custom, we got to talking about the neighbors; then started talking about the neighbors talking about us. “Yeah, they ask me how you guys make any money; I tell ‘em it’s ‘cuz you cut out the middlemen…” “Yeah, they wonder why it’s so weedy; I tell ‘em it’s ‘cuz once everything is established it’s not as important…” “They’re talkin’ about you guys shooting all of the deer…” By now we’ve heard tell of plenty of alleged rumory about us in the local bars, so this was none too surprising. We’ve actually thought about propagating some rumors of our own to see if they’d fly. They say the one fella makes his money giving moustache rides!So far, though, the rumors have originated in the neighborhood and returned to us via Bob. He admired our tomatoes as we talked, and left in timely fashion under his own volition– a welcome surprise.
A half hour later, I was standing around in the tractor garage chatting when I felt my phone vibrate. It was an unknown number from Sharon, WI, and something in my gut told me to answer it. I did, and after the initial Custer-reception static, started picking up on a dialogue.
“…remember, I told you guys about that hay…”
I remembered. “Is this Charlotte?” I asked. My mind flashed back to our initial interactions: Charlotte pulling in randomly on a Tuesday afternoon; introducing herself and hooking me up with a contact for free hay. Charlotte making a Sunday morning driveway lap in a Queen of England hat and two-passenger horse carriage; leaving Fanni and I bewildered in her wake. I returned to the present as she prattled. “… see you and your wife there working so hard all the time, and I feel so bad… it’s just an enormous amount of work… anyway, I was wondering if you thought you guys could use a fresh apple pie?
Could we use a fresh apple pie?
After confirming that yes, we could indeed use an apple pie, and no, it wasn’t a problem if it happened to still be hot when she delivered it, and yes, 4:30 would be fine, I hung up and shared the news. Giddy as I was, Monica was even more excited, and we returned to our respective projects; trying not to think too hard about the impending pie.
Sure enough, Charlotte arrived right around 4:30, and I assured her that yes, it was okay if the apples were a little mushy, and no, we wouldn’t be offended if the hot pie was a bit soupy. After she departed, Monica made her way nonchalantly from the bean bed and hung around for a while, taking a seat at the table while Oren, Fanni and I continued our construction project. Finally, the anticipation got the best of her. “Did that lady just drop off a pie?” Indeed. “Why aren’t we eating it?” With that, we scrounged up the meager smattering of utensils available and dug in, devouring the steaming pan of glory from the inside out. It was magnificent.
Precisely at this juncture, our lives were further transfigured by the entrance of neighbor #3: Eric Gagas. The neighbor responsible for the baling of the hay, he roared through the driveway with his tractor and wagon, hitting the field and managing a quarter lap and approximately seven bails before losing focus and coming over to chat. He loped up the hill towards the table: big smile, bald head and cold Coors Light in tow. Though not yet well acquainted, I thought I remembered hearing his name in those early nose-punching stories, and remembered that from early conversations, Oren wasn’t quite sure what to make of the guy. At any rate, here he was, and he and Oren carried out a classic country-dude conversation; tackling credit union takeovers and big dairy before he loped back down the hill towards his tractor, leaving us in peace with our glorious pie. “I’ll get you that money by the end of the week.” He called back over his shoulder.
“Okay,” Oren replied nonchalantly. I must admit; I’m not exactly sure what to make of a guy who crushes Coors Lights in his tractor at 4:30 pm, gets in nose-punching confrontations and promises to pay you later. But hey, we were eating pie. I guess it’s just like they say; you can choose your friends, but you can’t choose your neighbors.