Maggie Wilson Author

Historical Non-Fiction in Northern Ontario

Good Fences Do Make Good Neighbours – Eventually

Nicely stacked along the fence

Nicely stacked along the fence

As you may have read elsewhere, my current address is my seventeenth. That many moves in forty years does not allow time to build lasting relationships with neighbours. At every stop, I did manage to become acquainted with the households on either side of mine. Some good, some not so good, and one or two have morphed into friendships for life.

Turns out seventeen is a lucky number. For about a year, before I met Reiner, I lived here on my own and maintained the property as best I could. No, edit that. With the help of my two neighbours, I was able to keep the ol’ homestead in reasonable shape. Once, a cedar fell onto the garage. Neighbour North brought his chainsaw and not only cleared the mess, he stacked the wood very nicely along the fence. Neighbour South has helped more than once with snow clearing. We have a long, steep gravel driveway. Just this past weekend after the most recent dump of snow, Reiner and I were both prepared to tackle the snowdrifts when we heard Mr. South’s snowblower in the lane. Truly a godsend, that guy. That reminds me, I need to bake him a batch of cookies, or something.

South will take the laundry from my line if he’s home and I’m not, and bad weather approaches. I leave bags of beans and tomatoes on his doorstep. We feed his cats and invite them in to visit. One day he came over looking for Keira – had we seen her?  Oh yeah, she’s upstairs sleeping in the guest room. We look after each other’s households when we go away for weekends, that kind of thing.

When North’s children, three sweet little girls, were younger, they would come over with gifts of drawings and bouquets of dandelions. We’d talk and kibitz with Mr. and Mrs. North over the fence at the rear of the yards anytime we happen to both be in that area. We would have talked over the fence in the OTHER part of the yard if it weren’t so tall. And that’s where this story really starts.

It turns out that the folks who lived in our house previous managed to make enemies of the entire neighbourhood. There were protests and placards, even. I’ve been able to piece together the story over the years, and it’s rather unpleasant.

The Previous People hated cats.

Both North and South had cats as family pets, and these cats were allowed out-of-doors. Several doors down lived a fellow who fed feral cats. Lots of kitties roaming through the yards, is my point.

Before I lived here, there was a lean-to-slash-mudroom-slash-utility-shed attached to the rear of our house. South told me that on more than one occasion he saw a cat come flying out (literally).

Having had enough with the feline traffic, Mr. Previous decided to escalate. He got a dog.

Then he installed one of those invisible wire fences all around to keep the dog in. It’s a largish yard that backs onto several hundred acres of woodlot and farmland. To fence the yard all around would have been an enormous expense. He did plant a row of cedar trees along the south boundary. It did not trouble Previous that this hedgerow severely limited access to South’s side yard.

The dog obviously didn’t do the job that was expected of him, because Previous started to trap the cats. 

This does not end well.

One day North’s beloved cat went missing. Previous had trapped it and sent it off to the animal control people.

Naturally North’s family were besides themselves with grief and outrage. They rallied neighbours to protest and the local newspaper reported the event. A day of shame for the Previous family.

But it didn’t stop there! One day North comes home to find a contractor installing a wooden fence between his lot and Previous’s. (This little nugget came to me just the other week when the same contractor was doing some work for South. It’s a small town, remember, 2 and a half degrees of separation!) Apparently, Mr. North came storming into the yard, threatening and enraged. Mrs. North managed to intervene and the fence-building continued. The fencing crew built a 1000 by 8-foot high barrier that day.

Shortly afterward, Previous put the house on the market. The story from the real estate lady was that the family of 7 children were outgrowing the space. Also, Mrs. P was a horse fancier and wanted a place to keep one of her own.  Of course it wouldn’t make for “feel good” sales talk to mention that the guy was a cat killer.

It must have been a relief for both the family and the neighbours on that moving day.

In hindsight I can see why neighbour South was so happy to meet Joey, my tuxedo cat. It also explains why it took a year or so before his cats comfortably rambled through our yard. The cedar hedge is gone now, too. It was mostly eaten by deer or otherwise stunted by shade. And it was a huge pain in the tuckus to mow around. I was hesitant to broach the subject with Souths, thinking that it was their hedge in the first place. You can imagine their delight when I offered to pull it up.

And it also explains why Mr. North was so cautious when he asked if he could dismantle a section of the fence at the beginning of his driveway so that he could maneuver his camper into the yard.

“Of course! Take down as much as you want! Do you want help?”

No, thanks, he said. After he took down a section or three, he stacked the lumber very nicely against the rest of the fence.

Head Photo courtesy

Categories: Daily Post, Relationships

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17 replies


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