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That's What Neighbors Are For

When we first moved in, our neighbors were relieved to see us mowing the lawn and keeping up with general maintenance around the place. The previous occupants hadn't done that.

Another neighbor sent her kids down the road pulling an old red wagon filled with good things--to welcome us to the neighborhood. We'd only been here a week or two, and I had spent the day shopping in Merced for some much-needed items. When I got home, on the table sat dinner--from the children's wagon--and a note from a stranger who became an instant friend. I'll always remember the meal that night: a hearty beef stew, homemade bread and applesauce canned by her own hands in her cozy, country kitchen.

One neighbor used to work in Yosemite, and knows a lot about the native vegetation. Once in awhile he'll show up at our door with a pot of herbs or a fruit tree seedling for our garden. He and other friends and neighbors have shared their iris bulbs with us. Six years ago, the lawn was full of weeds, with only a flower or two. But now there are flowers in abundance. I like to think of it as my "friendship garden."

Occasionally I call the neighbor on the phone. "Um-mm... There's a snake outside, right by the door, and I don't know what kind it is. Do you think you could come over and help me get rid of it?" I ask. He's retired, and doesn't mind the interruption. I'm finally learning which snakes are good ones (they keep down the gopher and mouse population), and which ones aren't. But I still jump a little whenever I see one.

We had to put our dog down three years ago, after having him for close to twelve. Our neighbors put theirs down, too. We can sympathize. Then last year we got a pug. They got a pug, too, and now our pugs are neighbors! The other day there was a message on the answering machine. "If you guys aren't doing anything later this afternoon, Rosie would like some company," the voice said. So after lunch we put Maddie's harness and leash on, and went for a walk--to visit Rosie. What a great time they had!

While there, the wife told me about some health issues that have been bothering her. I hadn't known. "Oh, you should've called me," I said, and gave her a hug. She looked at me like I'd scolded her. "You know how we are. We like to think we're not really getting old," she replied. I still asked her to let me know if she ever needs anything in the future. Then I made a mental note to call her more often, and take her a loaf of bread soon, too.

Yesterday, while walking with Maddie (our pug) to the post office, we stopped to chat with another neighbor. We talked about our gardens, her cows and the recent thunderstorm. She also has some dogs, and bent down to ask Maddie how she's been doing. Then she asked about our neighbors and their pug, which led me to tell her of the recent illness. She, too said she needed to call there soon.

There's a house for rent down the road, and another neighbor's house is for sale. Can't help but wonder what kind of neighbors we'll get.

Ronald Reagan believed in small government and kind neighbors. (I'm reading Nancy's book, My Turn.) He didn't believe that government should step in to do what neighbors can do for each other.

Life is pretty peaceful out here in the country, but we still have our share of concerns and hardships, too. And living here can even be stressful at times. But good neighbors help make life better somehow.