For whatever reason, this news-side column was held a day by our sister paper (The Gaston Gazette) because it didn’t fit some sort of stereotype. Whatever. He’s not real happy about it.
Want to read more about the column? Visit Monte’s MySpace here, where you can see his original column (printed in full below with Monte’s permission) and his thoughts.
My take: Unless it was a straight space concern (and I can’t imagine The Gazette having that kind of problem), I don’t know why this column couldn’t run. They’re afraid they’re going to upset some rednecks? Who knows.
Here you go:
Towns that are the same in population have somehow grown twice as big in size. Have you noticed this?
When I was a boy, the family farm was in the country. Now it borders the city limits and an apartment complex that is, basically, the bane of my existence. The town still has about 10,000 people living in it, just as it did 40 years ago.
Because of that apartment complex, I had to install an alarm system in my house. Now I’ve got an alarm system but not a doorbell. Someone smashed it, and I haven’t yet gotten around to replacing it. It hasn’t been but, oh, five years.
One of these years I’ll remember it. The problem, obviously, is that I never have to ring my doorbell.
Strange items of trash – there’s really no need to go into detail – have been thrown over the fence into my road. .Kids are always spilling over, sometimes leaving bicycles parked on the edge. I’ve found the best policy is just to walk out the front door, stand there and look as mean as possible. Most times they scatter without a word. If I actually go up and lecture or yell, all that does is get broken glass or nails scattered in the gravel.
The summer brings a stream of people asking if they can fish in my pond. Some of them look as if one might not want them knowing too much about the property. Again, it’s a delicate problem. A firm “no” works better than an angry one.
I once read a novel by Wallace Stegner (one of America‘s more overlooked literary figures) about a retired man and his wife who gradually watched their property being overrun by what evolved into a hippie commune. A guy from the apartment complex reminded me of the antagonist in that book.
Let’s just call him Ricky. He’s allegedly disabled. For a time, he befriended two of my nephews. They lobbied for me to let him set up some lounge chairs, build an occasional campfire and hold court in a little grassy area just off the apartment’s property and just on mine. See, Ricky had already been banned from holding such convivial gatherings on the apartment’s property. I never approved of this; I just took it under advisement. Next thing I noticed, it was a done deal.
Ricky has more rusted vehicles than some junkyards. There isn’t room for them in his allotted space at the apartment complex. He asked me to let him park a motor home behind the barn. Apparently, the presence of that motor home caused my sister to have an argument with her then-husband, who, as best I can tell, thought that my sister might be having an affair and that the motor home was some sort of sultry love nest.
Apparently my sister’s husband had neither seen the motor home nor met Ricky. Or, more likely, he was just nuts. There’s a lot of that going around.
Ricky was one of those guys who, if granted an inch, would invariably take a mile. The final straw came when I returned home from a NASCAR track only to find a Confederate flag flying on my property. I was furious. It was sort of the ultimate “what will the neighbors think?” moment.
I went over to Ricky’s apartment. If I had plucked that flag out of the ground, I would’ve looked like I was in Pickett’s Charge.
“What in the wide, wide world of sports made you think you could hoist a Confederate flag on my property?” I asked, not doing very well with my Jim McKay impression. It was more like a Jim McMahon impression. Or an Ed McMahon imitation. The pipes boomed.
“I didn’t think you’d have no problem with it,” said Ricky, calmly.
I told him Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. wouldn’t have had a bigger problem with that flag than I did. I added that I never again wanted to see him on my property. I called the police and told them I never again wanted to see him on my property. The police said “not so fast.” I had to draft a letter, get it notarized, hand-deliver one copy to Ricky, send another by certified mail and take copies to both the police and sheriff’s departments.
When I confronted Ricky again, he read the really, really, really official letter and said, “All right, then. Sorry we couldn’t make things work. No hard feelings, OK?”
I just turned around and left. So far he hasn’t burned my house down.