Sunday, January 15, 2006

Sunday's Gratitude Got Mugged

In the Neighborhood of God, Chaos can be a pest -- always in and out, asking for a cup of sugar or leaving the yard strewn with leaves I just raked. Some neighbors are simply obnoxious.

So it was Sunday and I was driving home, pondering my gratitude post, since Sundays are for gratitude. I already had the picture ready -- one the Baron had taken. And I was going to talk about being grateful for friends because we'd gone to our friends' house the night before to have dinner (yum, gumbo) and watch "Serenity."

These were my thoughts as I came to the driveway. But I stopped in the road because blocking the entrance was a dark sedan. There were big doings at the Baptist church just down the road and I thought perhaps this person was just overflow parking. But then I noticed he was motioning me to go around him. I motioned to him to move out onto the road so I could drive in without having to go on the verge (and possibly into the ditch), but he wasn't budging, except to move over three inches to my left.

So I squeezed in and before I could ask why he was there, this man informed me that I was on his property and he was closing the driveway to our use...??!!

We live in the country -- as my three readers know. Here in the woods, commonly shared driveways are...well, common. As in frequently found and not unusual. Our driveway property is mostly owned by a family who doesn't live there, but along comes Mr. Brown, down from the big city, with big plans for "his" share of the property. Which, given there are a dozen children and their offspring, can't be much. However, he says, he has a "vision" about what he's going to do with these woods and my driving on the road past them is definitely not part of his vision.

To put it mildly, I got upset. Intellectually, I knew he was wrong, but this grandiose flabber jab had me convinced we'd have to find another way into that third of a mile to our house. I told him he was cruel. He told me maybe we could make some kind of other words, that big city so-and-so was going to charge me rent for the privilege of using the driveway! And, by the way, I'd better move my mailbox because it belonged down by the church not near his property...

...The Baron was waiting to use my car to drive the Boy back to school when I came in crying. When I told him what'd happened he did the guy thing: got out the deed which showed that we had express use of the driveway, and called the sheriff (in that order). Then he drove down and parked behind the sedan, still sitting on the driveway. He showed Mr. Big the deed, but Mr. Big was on "Transmit Only" so the Baron just waited for the law. Fortunately, they showed up in two colors: the black officer talked to the crazy man, and the white officer told the Baron to call our attorney at home and make plans to have a letter delivered in lawyerese explaining to our visionary why he couldn't extort money for the use of a common driveway.

So now we have the expense of having an attorney explain to someone who cannot hear his neighbors that he can't deprive us of access to a commonly shared driveway. And is he gonna be mad! Turns out his grandma used to do this periodically to the old lady who lived in our house previously and the old lady didn't know the law so she would be frantic because she had to walk through the woods to get out until she could get back in Grandma's good graces and be permitted to use the driveway again. Mr. Big thought he'd come "home" (he left here in 1970) and repeat Grandma's evil ways.

Guess he thought we were hicks.

Now in case you think this is about race, it's not. Mr. Big is black, and we are white. Mr. Big's black grandmother used to pull this trick on the owner of our house, who was also black. It was not about race, you see, it was about being mean. Grandson wanted to carry on that fine family tradition.

Funny thing is, his Grandma made the black woman who owned our house so bitter that when it came time to sell, she wouldn't sell to any black folks. I didn't find that out until twenty years later, but I couldn't figure out why she'd do such a thing, be so trifling with her own people.

Now I know why. Too bad Miz Johnson's not still alive. I'd go visit her and talk about how the mills of God grind slowly, but grind they do. And they're gonna grind that mean man into an expensive lawsuit if he keeps up with his Grandma's mean ways. Oh, pardon me, her "vision."

Yeah. So Happy Martin Luther King Day, y'all.


At 5:17 AM, Blogger Wally Ballou said...

What a fool he was. You have the facts and the law on your side; all he can do is bluster. The fact is that even if you didn't have an expressly granted easement in your deed (which you do) you would have created one by your unencumbered use of it after 15 years. Since you have an easement, that's not even an issue. Hopefully his friends, if any (and certainly the Sherrif's office) will convince him to shut up and stand down. He will be pissed - that's just fine. You've had neighbors that didn't like you before.


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