Sometimes I feel like I cannot scratch an itch without it being seen and talked about in this little town of mine. My neighbors keep a close eye on all that goes on around here. Which, truth be told, is not much. Cows graze, rain falls (or doesn’t), gardens grow, fields are tended, people drive up the road and then back down the road. This dearth of activity produces a soothing predictability that has laid claim to my heart. Big news around here can sometimes be sitting in a field one usually walks through. Such an aberration on my part caused a neighbor to get in his truck and come make sure everything was all right. I assured him I was fine. It was a quiet Sunday morning, I had a good friend singing in my ear and I couldn’t think of any better way to spend an hour than to sit in this particular field and watch the grass grow. I was told the story of my deviance from another neighbor of mine who owns the field. He said he had told yet a third neighbor that if he saw me sitting in that field that everything was probably okay. Although as he said this, he did give me a slight tilt of head, as if questioning the sanity of someone just sitting in a field.
Most of the time, I am appreciative of these watchful eyes, as I know their intentions are heartfelt. So you would think when a 50 foot black walnut tree came down in our front yard during a crazy storm one afternoon, my neighbors would be all over it. I expected phone calls, pickup trucks in my driveway, offers of tractors and chain saws, advice on tree removal, stories about cracking the nuts that came from the tree. The silence that followed the storm was deafening. It took a full 24 hours for one neighbor to putt-putt over here on his lawn mower to investigate. He looked at me funny and said, “What happened?” I stated the obvious, and told him the tree fell during the storm we had on Monday. He responded, “Well I didn’t see it.” I didn’t quite know what to say, but I did feel slightly complicit in some sort of vague subterfuge.
Another neighbor (the one who saw me sitting in the field from a good quarter mile away) was standing in my driveway on Wednesday morning, 36 hours after the tree had fallen and not 20 feet from it, failed to notice the wreckage. After we had made small talk for about 5 minutes, I idiotically said, “I have a tree in my front yard.” He looked in the direction of our garden and said, “Well, my grandpaw, he always said those trees would make good shade one day.” I didn’t think this was the proper response, and I began to question his sanity. I then said, “Do you see the tree laying in my front yard.” He turned his head a fraction of an inch and his jaw dropped. “When did that happen?” I told him the same thing I told my other neighbor: “Monday during the storm.” “Well how come I didn’t know about it?” I didn’t have an answer for him either. Yet a third neighbor stopped me on Wednesday afternoon and said, “I think you’ve got somethin’ a-layin’ in your yard.” He probably had driven past my house at least six times since it happened. I told him that we had a tree come down in the storm on Monday. He looked at me incredulously and said, “But I just now noticed it.” Again, what was there to say?
Now that the news is out there, the offers of help and equipment, much advice and many stories have poured in just as I expected. I have lived in this house for a dozen years and have only now just discovered this little parcel of privacy. If I ever do get an itch or want to just sit and watch the grass grow, you can rest assured I’ll be doing it in the middle of my front yard.
PS. Amazingly we suffered no damage to our house. The tree fell just to the right of our power lines and just shy of the front porch. It clipped the gutter, but only dented it slightly. I love it when something nutty happens and the only thing to come out of it is a good story.
PPS. In deference to my neighbors, you really couldn’t see the tree unless you were standing on our front porch. Between the chest-high hay fields and the way our house sits, it was perfectly hidden from view.