Here's a story about my old neighborhood. We lived there about 8 years ago. We liked it because it was a beautiful area, and we were looking for some land that wouldn't put us in the poor house. We ended up building a nice cape cod on a ten acre wooded lot. The only problem with this town is that because it's in the boonies, it consists of a strange mix of one-hundred-year-old farm houses, new construction and an odd assortment of ex-hunting camps and trailers. The trailers are grandfathered in, and the new minimum lot size is 3 acres, so when they're gone, they're gone.
OK, back we go....picture the wavy dream lines you see on a TV sitcom when someone is dreaming or there's a flashback.
On the corner of my street, about 500 yards from my house, there is a trailer, or 'mobile home' if you want to get fancy, and next to it, a small hunting camp. When we first moved here, there was an elderly couple living in the trailer, and they tended to their lawn as if they lived in a mansion. They owned the small hunting camp next door as well. This was literally the size of a shed, a 12x12 building with a screened-in porch attached. Also immaculate. About 6 or 7 years ago, the old couple died, and the trailer and camp sat vacant for about a year. Then one day, we noticed that someone new had moved into the trailer.
The first thing to appear was the concrete deer lawn ornament. This was no ordinary deer, however. This one was special. His legs had corroded off down to the rebar, and part of his face was missing. The whole thing was the color of rotted lettuce. I have no idea where it came from, or why the fuck this guy would want this monstrosity in his front yard, but there it was: Some sort of undead zombie deer, no doubt to be fixed up with a trowel and a bag of quickcrete at some point in the distant future. We shook our heads, and didn't think too much more about it.
The second week, we noticed that there was some major roofing work going on. Could this be a second story? No, this was something even better. This was some sort of roof-raising endeavor -- more headroom perhaps. The people didn't look particularly tall, but who am I to say what the desirable amount of headroom in a sheetmetal trailer is? One thing I am sure of -- the man was no general contractor. The construction materials of choice: Aluminum flashing, wooden pallets, hammer, nails, and a 5 gallon bucket of roofing tar. So now this trailer had begun to look like something out of the bayou, except that it wasn't on stilts, and it wasn't 1600 miles away. About a week after that, the wooden front stairs disappeared, and a new mudroom went up. He must have scored some log siding somewhere, because that's what this thing is made of. Log siding, tar paper and an old screen door. All fastened to the side of the trailer with what looked like metal strapping. Nothing says "Welcome to my Home" like a log and tar paper mudroom and a stunning set of cinderblock stairs.
It was about then that we started to refer to these wonderful neighbors as the Scummersons. My wife and I would get home from work every day, and the first topic of conversation was always the new additions at the Scummerson Estate.
"Hey, did you see the Scummersons have a new wading pool? The water is completely green."
"Yeah, the dog was sitting in it licking himself when I went by." or
"Hey, did you notice that the Scummersons have 6 tractor tires piled up in their front yard?"
"Yeah, he was trying to use three of them as a base for his mailbox when I drove past."
This continued for about three months. Piles of shit would appear, then make their way to the back or side of the trailer.... while in the front yard there was always something new and wondrous. The topper was the miraculous appearance of the Virgin Mary. This was a bathtub virgin of immense proportions. You've seen these in the country, I'm sure. A cast iron bathtub cut in half and stood up on end, with a statue of the Virgin Mary inside. Well, apparently Jimbob Scummerson didn't have an acetylene torch buried in his vast piles of shit, because instead of cutting it in half, this genius digs a gigantic fucking hole, and buries half of the tub. Just watching this moron try to lever this 400lb cast iron behemoth into the hole was enough to give me a hernia. This was sometime in late October, and apparently that was the week for winterizing, because the next day we drove past, we noticed that the Virgin Mary was wrapped in heavy black plastic and tied up with rope. It was a disturbing image that will never leave my mind. It was like the final scene in some sort of satanic low-budget snuff film. She was in tip-top shape come spring though, so in retrospect, maybe it wasn't such a bad idea. I would have gone with the transparent plastic, so as to not burn in hell, but that's just me.
Around the same time, we started to notice that there was some activity at the hunting cabin. A few large propane tanks went in, and a 1971 Ford F-15o appeared. This truck, as far as I could tell, was completely made of rust. The rear quarter panels looked like they had the consistency of soda crackers. The passenger side window was busted out, and it had been replaced by a black hefty bag and some duct tape. The next day I noticed the window had been "fixed" -- apparently it's tough to see through a black hefty bag. The solution, in case this ever comes up in your life, is to cut a rectangular hole in the hefty bag, and tape in the lid from a McDonald's salad. Just so you know.
The hunting camp inhabitants were fast outpacing the Scummersons in the sheer amount of shit that was collecting outside on the lawn. What's the first thing you do when you move into a new place? Right! Get lawn furniture. True to form, the week after the truck appeared, the lawn furniture showed up. A table and a couple of benches. But this was no ordinary lawn furniture, oh no. The "table" was an empty wooden cable spool, and the "benches" were actually bench seats -- ripped out of a mid-70's Ford van. Maroon vinyl bench seats that looked like they had been chewed on by beavers. Lest you think I'm kidding:
This is pure, unsweetened reality. You can't make this shit up.
We had to have our deck inspected before winter that year, and we mentioned this place to the building inspector. He said he wasn't even sure that the people who were living there actually owned the property, or if they just moved in when nobody was looking. We promptly christened them the Squattersons.
A little while later, the Squattersons got a dog. Some sort of bulldog/bull terrier mix. A BIG dog, that would practically throttle itself trying to get to you if you walked by, and not because he wanted to be petted. On one hand, you were petrified, because you could almost see the thought balloon over this dog's head - you know, the one with the picture of you with your intestines outside your body. On the other hand, you felt bad for him, because this dog was chained outside all day, sitting in either a mud puddle, or a dust bowl, depending on the weather that week. The guy must have worked nights, because we would never see any activity during the day. The only change, other than the shifting shit piles, was the row of empty 40 ouncers in paper bags that would appear on the cable spool. You could tell what day of the week it was by the number of empties. 2 for monday, 4 for tuesday, 6 for wednesday, etc. By Sunday, there was no real estate left on the spool. We were pretty sure that there was no indoor plumbing in this place either, and that they were shitting in the creek behind the house. Nobody downstream ever complained, so I can't prove it.
It became a game, kind of like the "Where's Waldo" of crap. Instead of trying to find a goofy guy with glasses and a striped shirt, you were trying to ID the newest piece of shit they had hauled home. One fine day, the dog had a new run. There was a cable stretched between a tree and the shack itself, and the dog was tied to this cable. Underneath the run, where the mud puddle/dust bowl usually was, there was now a dented pickup truck cap with busted out windows. This was the new "doghouse." On the hot or wet days, you would see the dog's rope going inside one of the windows. On the nice days, he would sit on top, nestled in a pit bull-shaped dent. You would be amazed at how fast this dog could belly crawl out one of the windows to get to you. If you so much as glanced toward the shack when you were walking by, he would come shooting out of there like a downed pilot being ejected from his fighter plane.
I told you he was a night person, right? Well, he must have had Sunday night off that week, because right around 11:30pm, we hear the lawn tractor start up.
OK. This douchebag is mowing his lawn at 11:30 pm.
In the dark.
I jump in the car, and drive past the place to have a look. He's holding a flashlight in one hand, and a beer in the other. It's hard to see, but I'm fairly sure he's steering with his feet.
You remember what his lawn looked like right? You couldn't mow this thing at high noon in July without running over 17 things, any one of which would either kill you or someone walking by. So I drive home, and tell my wife what I witnessed. As I'm talking, we hear this amazingly loud noise that sounds like someone threw a case of empty beer bottles into a giant blender. The motor makes a sound like a car bumper being tossed into a good-sized wood chipper, runs up to about 9,000 rpm, and stops dead. The silence is deafening. About 30 seconds later, we hear hear another bottle break, a door slam, then nothing.
The next day, when I leave for work, I see there's a stump at the edge of the property with some newly hacked gashes in its side, and a ceramic flower pot in about a million pieces. There's broken glass and chopped up brown paper bag everywhere, and in my mind I put it all together. It was a Sunday after all, and windy the night before, so the 40 ounce empties were hard to avoid. The tractor is on its side down in the gully next to the house, half in the stream and half out of it. I am pretty sure it's still there.
Here's the rest of the crap list, in order of appearance: 4 rusty bicycles with no front tires, A lawn tractor, with no seat (presumably a parts tractor for the one that was now embedded in the stream bottom) a universal home gym (important to stay in shape when you're drinking all that quality malt liquor) a rowboat with a hole in it, a gas grill with no front window, and what can only be some sort of burned up furnace. This was bad. So bad, it was hard to believe unless you've seen it. So bad, the guy in the beautiful old farmhouse across the street actually put up what we refer to as "the Great Wall of Greenfield." It is a 10-foot high wooden fence that runs the entire length of his property on his side of the road, which completely blocks his view of the combined Scummerson and Squatterson estates. I keep expecting to see guard towers and razor wire, or at least some broken bottles embedded across the top.
Today, Oh Most Glorious of Days, everything was gone. Gone. Completely. The only thing left is the shack. All the useless crap, all the debris, the trash, the filth, the dog and his fancy house, the universal gym -- even the 'No Trespassing' sign -- all of it, gone. It was like one of those movies where the hero goes back with the police to the cocaine processing lab, and it's turned into a meat-packing factory or something. I have no idea what happened to them. I don't know if they are doing 5 to 10 for armed robbery, or if they just went to Florida for the winter, or if they got on the bad side of Hector "the shiv" Rodriguez, but they are gone.
It is truly a wonderful day in the neighborhood. One down, one to go. I think that sometime in the last couple of years, the Scummersons had/stole a kid. Either that, or they started collecting 2-wheeled Big Wheels and 3-wheeled Cozy Coupes. I've never actually seen the kid, except for one time when I thought nobody was home and I swear I saw him peek over the top of the screen door. It was probably my imagination. I hope so. He looked to be about 3 years old. Maybe that's old enough to be home by yourself, who am I to say? If the kid makes it to 4 I'll be amazed, although he made it through the first three years, so he's a scrapper. Wish him luck. If I wasn't imagining things, I figure at least someone besides the dog will be using that green-water wading pool this summer.