I saw this article Report: Neighbors Claim bin Ladens Would Not Return Balls Kicked Over Compound Wall on Star Tribune columnist, James Lileks’ Twitter feed this afternoon. He wrote, “Remember the mean neighbor who hated kids? How your friends dared you to retrieve something from his backyard?”
How many people actually had a mean neighbor growing up? I did. My kids do. I’m curious how that played out. Were the issues ever resolved? Did you move away? Like in the movies and television, did it turn out he was just misunderstood and did everyone come to a happy, heartfelt understanding? Or was she just a mean old bag who hoarded cats and ate children for supper?
My mean neighbor was a an officer with the Kansas Highway Patrol. He was divorced with two sons, both older than me, one of whom never really gave me the time of day, and another who was a nice guy and played endless summer games of catch and baseball with my brother and me. His lawn was immaculate, everything about his house and cars was pristine, sterile, and orderly.
When I was 12, I got my best Christmas present ever. A three-month old schnauzer/cocker spaniel puppy named Candy. My brother, sister and I loved that dog more than anything. She was the cutest little thing, though rambunctious, as puppies tend to be. Sometimes she got out of the house. I clearly remember having to chase the quick little bugger to the ends of the earth and haul her ass back home.
I’m guessing that on her little outings she did her business along her route, including on my neighbor’s yard. I’m pretty sure my dad would have picked up anything she pooped out, but you can’t really clean dog pee off of a lawn.
One day Candy got out and never came back. We searched the entire neighborhood. By foot, by car, by bike. My mom called neighbors, called the police station and animal control, called local animal shelters. No sign of her anywhere. Three nice, innocent kids, ages 12, 9 and 6, spent the night sobbing over their lost puppy, thinking she was gone forever.
The next day my mom got a phone call from the police station. The dog was at the pound. She’d be released after a fine was paid and she got her booster shots. Where did they find her? A neighbor called the police and turned her in. After keeping her in his garage. All night. Without letting us know. That explained why we thought we’d heard her whining during the night. Is there a more diabolical thing to intentionally make children endure?
My mom went over and had a discussion with the neighbor. Having endured some of her more noteworthy lectures, let me tell you, I would not have wanted to be on the business end of that conversation. Candy stayed out of his yard from then on out. We had an intense dislike for him until the day we moved away.
© Jennifer Alys Windholz, 2011