A neighbor put a stick in our yard

My husband mowed their median strip and moved that stick ... and they put it back in our yard! What is that about?

By Cary Tennis

Published October 1, 2009 7:07AM (EDT)

Dear Cary,

My husband mowed the front grass strip in front of our house between the sidewalk and the curb. He didn't stop at our house, but did the next two, a common courtesy between the residents who've lived here a while. After three houses, the grass ends and it's sidewalk from the fourth house to the end of the block, so he stopped. There was no grass left. He saw a large 3-foot stick in the gutter and moved it up to the curb so it wouldn't damage anyone's tires. He didn't change which house it was in front of -- the fourth house -- just moved it up 3 inches from the gutter to the curb. He was being considerate.

Imagine our surprise when we went to dinner later to see the stick artfully placed in the middle of our yard! The people in the fourth house put the yard litter in our yard! My husband said it was the last time he ever did a good deed and I had him show me where the stick was before he moved it and I put it back there. I don't need to tell you it was back in my yard when I got home tonight.

It is really upsetting to think I'm supposed to take the high road, put the stick in the trash can and let this arrogant woman continue to Mean Girl anyone she wants. I feel like I've always taken the high road and let people walk all over me and it's clear this woman is used to bullying people. I feel so wrong letting that stick stay in my yard and telling the woman by my inaction that she can vandalize other people's yards.

It is clear the stick fell from the large tree in front of her house and fell down to the gutter below. There is no large tree in front of my house or any beside me. All one has to do is look at the evidence to know what happened.

I LOVE my neighborhood. I worked hard to buy my house, I have roots here and my mother lived here when she was a child. This nasty neighbor has ruined my sense of community, but doing nothing is making me feel like a victim. My heart races and I feel sick to my stomach thinking this shrew can make the rules and make me suffer and I have to do it because I shouldn't make it an issue.

Wife of Wrongful Mower

Dear Wife of Wrongful Mower,

I am really grateful for your letter today.

Why? Well, all this peering into life's dark depths can crowd out life's lighter moments. If you're always peering into life's dark depths, it's possible to forget about ice cream and days at the beach and kids with their toenails painted.

So, like for instance this morning I'm driving the dogs to the groomer and talking to my brother on my new iPhone. He's taking care of our dad, who is pretty old now, and we're treasuring every day.

He says, "So Daddy asked me if I was interested in doing some stump removal."

"You have a stump to remove?"


"So there's no stump in the yard?"

"No. No stump. He just wants to know my price."

"On stump removal."

"I said we'd start at $125."

"Sounds fair."

"That's with the discount. But he'll negotiate me down."

So that was something. That was something you might miss if you were always peering into life's darkest depths. (You know what I typed at first? I typed, "if you were always peeing into life's dark depths." Ha ha. See what I mean? I could have missed that.)

So anyway then I'm still on the phone with my bro and then we finally hang up and I drive the truck to the bank and park in the little 10-minute green zone and deposit Benjamin's check for the workshop and I go back to the truck.

The dogs are gone!

Oh, my God! They're ... gone! Dogs ... dogs ... dogs ... gone ... gone ... gone ... no ... dogs ... in... truck ... must ... think ... brain ... think! Dogs ... where are dogs ... why are there no dogs in the truck ...

Ah! Jesus! Yes! The dogs! I just dropped them off at the groomers! The dogs are at the groomers!

OK. Dogs are at the groomers. OK.

It's a beautiful world. The dogs are at the groomers. I have to go at 4 and pick them up. I will bring my checkbook. I've set myself an alarm on iCal. The alarm will go off and I'll pick the dogs up and write a check. They'll be clean and beautiful. They will smell good.

I do have to chill out. Your letter provides an opportunity to do that. You are basically fine. You don't need my help. You have a nice house in a nice neighborhood where you have family roots. Your husband is a nice man. He mowed more than he needed to. He tried to prevent tire damage.

But then your neighbor put a 3-foot stick in your yard, and that has ruined everything.

I appreciate you and I appreciate your husband and I appreciate the stick. I appreciate the lawn mower and the grassy strip between the sidewalk and the street and I appreciate this neighbor of yours in House No. 4.

I appreciate all of this. This is how we live. We mow each other's median strips. We move each other's sticks. Sometimes that gets us in trouble. Sometimes we have to apologize for things we don't even know what we did wrong. We try to keep the peace.

You don't need my help. You're going to be fine. I'll bet you're over it by now.

But where is the stick now, the 3-foot stick your husband picked up out of the gutter and put on the curb to prevent tire damage? Did you put it in the trash like you didn't want to? If you did, that's OK. You win some, you lose some. Try to make friends with this neighbor. Go in peace.

And know this: I dare say possible tire damage was indeed prevented by your husband.

Still, in spite of neighborhood custom, he may be guilty of wrongful mowing.

He could be cited.

It would serve him right. Mowing other people's grass, indeed.

Living with others? There's stuff in here about that, sort of ...

Makes a great gift. Can be personalized for the giftee of your choice. Signed first editions on sale now.

What? You want more advice?


Cary Tennis

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