Our cul de sac has been an interesting place to live over the last sixteen years. We have had a number of great neighbors and even called ourselves the "Over the Hill Gang" for a few years. Of course we all live just over the crest of our hill, and except for the baby of the group, Diane, we have all been over fifty for a while. Fortunately Diane has recently joined that over fifty club.
When you live this close to people for years you get to know them pretty well. You can tell when they are home and when they go to bed. In most cases when the newspaper disappears from its box is a good indication of when the first person in the house gets up. There are some exceptions to that, but more on that later. For a few of us who have done more than our share of business travel, the newspaper remaining outside until eight or even nine o'clock on a weekday, means we're on the road and the wives might just be sleeping in a little.
Today I got a yellow sticky note in my newspaper box at 7:15 am that said simply "Three mornings in a row." That was a none too subtle jab from my early rising neighbor, Randy, that I just might be enjoying a little too much the more relaxed life style that has come with my new job. He had beaten me to the newspaper three mornings in a row. Of course I had provoked the sticky by leaving a note in his box at 8 am last Saturday. My note said, "Sleeping in is a sign of civility."
Of course sticking notes in our newspaper boxes is only one the things that makes having close neighbors a lot of fun.
Aside from the inevitable comments that we trade about our wives taking advantage of our business travels to catch some extra sleep, we also have a running debate with one of our neighbors, Robert, about whether the news is worth retrieving in the morning. Robert is a Doctor, and has the very admirable trait of exercising every night and reading his paper while he is getting in his exercise.
Randy and I maintain the news is hardly worth reading by night since it was already pretty stale by the time we retrieve it. Robert takes it a step further and says the news is so out of date that it doesn't matter when he reads it or even if he reads it. I have pretty strong opinions about seeing the news in print as I detailed in my, "Love and Respect for Print." Then again Robert is not exactly a pushover with his opinions so mostly we just kid each other about sleeping in or our wives not getting the paper until later than we do.
When spring comes, my love of taking sunrise pictures will usually give me the upper hand since I try not to miss many sunrises as the sun gets around to coming up over downtown Roanoke. Today I got up at 6:45 am, snapped a couple of pictures, looked at the snow on the deck and laid down to catch another ten minutes of sleep.
The other rite of spring happens to be mowing our yards, we have a proud tradition in our little circle, most of us mow our own yards. That's seems to be something of an oddity these days. I actually like to do it until about the end of September. It used to be that some weeks mowing my yard was the only thing I really accomplished that I could see and feel. We had another Doctor neighbor, Ron, just move away. He swore that before he bought his new house, he was going to check and see if his new neighbors allowed lawn services. No one said living here is easy on top of the mountain.
Unfortunately Randy had knee surgery a year ago and is scheduled for surgery on his other knee so he is semi-retired from the mowing business. His son, Eddy, a Radford student, has done a good job of keeping the grass cut short, but that leaves most of the competition to Robert and myself. This past year, I had the advantage since I was between jobs so I could mostly mow when my yard needed it. Since I used to cut six hundred acres of hay a year, and my life was defined by growing seasons, I find mowing reminds me that there is still a rhythm to the seasons even here in subdivision on the side of a mountain.
Sometimes I take some good-natured ribbing over my yard's perfectly clipped appearance, but Robert's yard ends up being pretty immaculate. I tease him about vacuuming leaves from his flower beds since the wind tends to blow everything out of ours.
When we aren't fussing with our yards, we end up worrying about the back of our lots which as any Virginian will tell you, grow into a vigorous tangle unless you cut it down yearly. Our back is a cliff which over the years I have brought into a semblance of order through liberal use of my chain saw and "Brush be Gone." I like my yard, but working on a slope where standing is almost impossible is not exactly fun especially with a chain saw.
Robert's bank behind his house is not nearly as steep as ours, and he has also managed to trim his into relative submission over the years.
Randy's bank is another story and has been a battle over the years. It's been mulched, grassed, and now mulched once again. Of course having next door a newly constructed house which created something of a drainage problem for a while, did not help matters. This year we enjoyed counting the dump trucks of mulch that went to cover Randy's bank. Time will tell if this a permanent or a temporary victory over the aggressive Virginia vegetation that likes to take over when we turn our backs. It will be a great opportunity to balance the scales a little on this newspaper thing.
Tomorrow morning I guess I'll have to get up extra early since the bag of peanuts I stuck into Randy's newspaper box last week has not created any slack. Good thing I have all day to think of something witty. Unfortunately I might have to miss Jay Leno's monologue since sometimes I think Randy lies awake waiting to hear the newspaper being delivered just so he can have it hot off the presses.
Then maybe I should just take Robert's position that it doesn't matter when I read the news. Oh well, the yards will be green soon...