My next door neighbor Jose has two very large oak trees in his front yard. In autumn, he waits for all the oak leaves to fall from the trees and then he hires a lawn service to clean his yard.
While this works great for Jose, it works badly for me. My yard is downwind from his which means most of the oak leaves end up blowing into my yard. You would think that the leaves would continue to travel through my yard into the street, but life isn’t fair and the leaves seem to stick like Velcro to my grass. Unfortunately I don’t use a lawn service for my leaves. I don’t use a blower, I don’t use a mower. I use a contraption that consists of a long wooden handle with long metal prongs at the end. It is commonly referred to as a “rake”.
But this year I had a great idea. A quick trip to the local hardware store and for less than $20 I had a short, white, garden fence. I quickly installed the fence at the edge of my property and waited for the leaves to begin falling.
I watched in glee as those leaves smacked hard against my fence and then fell stunned back into Jose’s yard. A few “high fliers” made it over, but my yard was basically leaf-free while his yard was feeling the “full brunt of autumn”.
I thought the fence was working very well until one day when I was confronted by an angry Jose.
“What is the idea with this fence?” he asked. “There are too many leaves in my yard and there is no place for them to go.”
“But those are your leaves”, I pleaded. “They are your problem and you should deal with them, not me.”
“The leaves should have the right to go wherever they want and they like your yard. They are very happy there. That is why they stay and do not come back”, he stated.
“When your leaves settle in my yard, I have added work and expense to tend to them. That should not be my responsibility, it should be yours.” I protested.
“This is not right, said Jose. “You are a bigot because you do not like oak trees and do not want their leaves in your yard.”
“Not true” I said. I do not want maple leaves. I do not want birch leaves. I do not want any leaves that do not belong in my yard!
Jose shouted, “You are not being a good neighbor” and stormed back into his house.
I thought the issue was settled until Halloween evening when I heard a voice booming from a loud speaker from Jose’s yard. I ran outside and I saw a very strange scene. There was Jose’s son standing on his porch, dressed in a suit wearing a Ronald Reagan mask and speaking into a microphone. Furthermore, there were chairs set up in the yard and all the neighbors had apparently been invited to attend this presentation.
I thought this just some Halloween fun. The kid was really doing a good job imitating Reagan; he was doing the head bob and everything. He was reciting an actual Reagan speech and was really getting into it. I had just realized this was Reagan’s Brandenburg Gate speech delivered near the Berlin Wall in 1987, when suddenly he turned and looked right at me, and proclaimed:
“Mr. Ake, Tear down this wall!”
“It’s not a wall, it’s a fence”, I yelled.
But it was too late, all hell broke loose. All the neighbors started arguing with each other. Some thought it was wrong to put up the fence and contain the leaves. Others said the fence was a great idea. One guy thought I didn’t need the fence and that I should just buy a blower and blow all the leaves back into Jose’s yard. I ran back into my house and peeked out my window until the commotion calmed down.
Who would have thought that a simple solution involving a fence could cause so much controversy?
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