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Rotten Apples; it only takes one to spoil the bunch.

What to do when you have bad neighbors

Once upon a time, 17 years ago, I moved to a new neighborhood and bought an abandoned property. I got it dirt cheap. Such an amazing deal that it made all my neighbors mad. Various people in the neighborhood wanted it and tried to offer on it over the years but the owner would not sell to any of them. (There was some bad ju-ju between them, and sadly it got transferred to me when I bought. Guilt by association) The property had been abandoned for a few decades it appears. I just stumbled upon it at the right time. I made an offer and landed a shell on a slice of land buried deep in the wilderness for just $15K USD. It took me $65,000 and three years to do the first remodel.

From day one my neighbors hated me for getting that home. The trouble started literally from day one. Now, I am a pretty good neighbor. Neat, clean, quiet. We keep to ourselves, never bothered anyone or talked badly about anyone through the whole ordeal. But there was this one lady that lived about a half mile away from us, down another road. She was not a nice lady at all. Known as the neighborhood busy body, she attempted to stick her nose into everyone else’s business. As far as I can tell, she spoke badly about us at any and every chance she could and attempted to poison the minds of all the other neighbors around us. It must have worked well as two super crazy incidents I will speak of will show.

First off, our property was “landlocked” in that it did not have a parking space. The property did not have a “row”, that is an abutting piece of land that connected directly to the common road like every other house did. Ours had a sharp drop off. A ravine that was totally unusable. Our property, as were all the other cabins along the road, was sliced off of the “Old Chapman Farm” back in the 1920’s. About 9 slices were sold and folks built hunting/camping/fishing cabins. Whoever carved up our property did not bother trying to buy the unusable portion that connected to the road. I can understand why. So, over the 80 years of use by others, whoever owned our house would just park a car or horse at the top of the hill where ever they could park. We did the same thing.

Like I said we had “issues” with the neighbors since day one. It seems no one wanted us to be there. So folks would complain about it that we were parking our cars in the middle of the woods, in the middle of nowhere. Now a few things need to be explained so you can get the context.

#1 Some judge back in the 80s laid down a decree that there was NO such thing as “landlocked” land in the State of Ct. and that everyone had to have access to their land.

#2 According to long held maxims of law we did have a “right of way.” There are various forms of access. For instance one law in Ct is that if a property is in use a certain way, openly and notoriously, for 15 years it’s a DONE DEAL.  It’s called prescriptive access. SOMEONE had accessed our home prior to us for 80 years by simply parking and walking a path to the home. This also passed to us. Over the years and the troubles we had, I did end up spending countless dozens of hours researching right of ways and access. We had access by prescription and another one by necessity. That is actually a thing. A person has a RIGHT to access a property they own, its not allowed to be landlocked and access of necessity is totally recognized and upheld by courts. We also had access listed in a deed for the road as well.

So, in the first year of us living in our new home, we had a neighbor that was a not so nice 84 year old man. He was pretty upset with us for walking about 50 feet across a path over his property that led to our home. He did not live there. He lived 30 minutes away in a city and only visited his house in the wood perhaps once a month. But God forbid we should walk across his path like someone did for 80 years. One day he and a neighbor showed up when I was not there and met my wife and her babies as she was walking the path to go out for the day. They demanded that she remove herself from the path. Now you got to picture this. A mother, a two year old child and a baby in a baby carrying car seat (like a basket) and they are making her cry and are totally heartless demanding she get off immediately. She calls me and I return to speak with them and they basically “tricked me” by lying to me about a few things and said to me (roughly)  look, why don’t you just build some stairs going down to your house from the top of the road and we will leave you alone. TRYING to be agreeable, I reluctantly relented as these two men gave me their word that they would not bother us. So I bought $2K worth of wood and set about building some stairs.

Many days later when I was driving the very last screw in the stairs admiring my work all of a sudden the neighbors ALL showed up. No, I am not kidding it was like 10 people and a police officer. They waited till I did ALL the work, then called the cops and said I was building on land that was not mine. Right or wrong… the police officer made a bad judgment call in my opinion and demanded that I tear down the steps or he would arrest me. I believe I should NOT have done so, but not wanting to be arrested and hauled off and getting into a court battle, I relented and agreed to start tearing the stairs apart. Cheers, high fives and hugs were passed around by all the neighbors in front of my eyes. I am NOT joking, lying or embellishing this in any way. These people were so happy and excited about “winning” and having a victory I actually saw them clapping, cheering and high fiving each other and I remember thinking to myself: OMG these people are sick and crazy! What the heck is wrong with them?

Anyway, I had to go down to the town hall and talk to the selectman about this and eventually he said to me just build your stairs and if anyone gives you any crap about it tell them to come see me. Fairly quickly I was issued an easement by the town to build the stairs.  I guess no one was happy about that but us.

A few years later, one day we have our car parked at the top as we are loading a few things into our car. You got to understand this is the middle of nowhere. If I saw a car go down our road once a week it was a practical miracle. We only saw a few stray hikers perhaps 5 times in 17 years. It’s that hidden, that isolated and unknown. Anyway while I am up there my (now 5 year old) son is walking around the road as my wife and I are parked and loading and around the corner comes this old lady in her car. When she sees us parked there she hits the gas, speeds up like mad racing towards our car and almost runs over my child. He is trying to run away, trips, falls, and his shoe comes off…. he gets back up and keeps running and she is laying on the horn. She runs over his shoe and comes about 3 inches from our bumper and just keeps her hand on the horn. I am thinking to myself this lady is insane. What the heck is she DOING?!  So, I go over to her and she just starts screaming and yelling and ordering me to get out of the way. Remember she does not even LIVE on this street, but a half mile away. What is she even doing there? I have no idea but it’s our house and she is going insane. So much so, that I actually had to call the police on her. They eventually came out and talked with me and my wife where we told the story and explained what happened. They drove off to go talk with her. I never did hear back, nor bother to check. But I am guessing she talked her way out of it.

Fast forward countless years. Over the full 17 years we owned this property we constantly got the feelings from other neighbors that there was just “bad ju-ju”. I mean we could tell that no one liked us. No one talked well about us. Gossip, lies, rumors all have a place in this. During all this time, I took care of the road. No one really seemed to care about cleaning anything except me. So I bought 4 various leaf blowers over the 17 years and would put in around 16-20 hours in the spring and another 20+ hours in the fall leaf blowing the ENTIRE road. (Our portion of the road was like a half mile long from where we turned to head to our property). I would cut back the scrub brush and trim trees and just do a lot of cleaning of fallen branches, etc. and a few times even maintained the old logging road, a path that was like a MILE long through 150 acres. I spent up to 80 hours a year “beautifying” that road for walking, hiking, bike riding etc.  No one else saw it and neither noticed it nor cared and that is OK. Just figured I would do it not just for our enjoyment but everyone else’s. (Various neighbors walked their dogs down that path every day).

We sold this property many months ago due to being forced out by the USFWS (this is another long story, but when they want you gone? They will MAKE you willing to go. It was brutal and caused our family an absolute ton of grief, but this is a story for another day). In the last year of our time there, my neighbor actually told me that he hated me for buying that house. He confessed that he wanted it and the land all to himself and total privacy and never wanted us there. It’s not like this was a mystery to us. We only saw them for 2 weeks a year. They lived in Florida and would get a 2 week vacation, come up and basically have one long drunken party till midnight or later multiple times a week. Complete with all kinds of noise, singing and loud music that would keep us all up into the wee hours of the night. We could just tell they “tolerated” us. They were cordial to our faces, but deep down hated us. We knew it, could sense it and feel it. For whatever reason the whole neighborhood would be partying on their deck all the time, but we were never invited. And honestly that is ok with us because that would have been a most uncomfortable experience.

In THEIR eyes (the neighborhood, as a corporate whole) WE were the bad guys; just rotten apples. Unwanted neighbors. But not once did anyone in the neighborhood EVER take the time to get to know us and find out who we are as people. No conversations. No nothing. Just avoidance cause we are rotten. It’s really kinda sad. Because if anyone did take the time to get to know us they would have discovered that we are the friendliest people. We would do just about anything for anyone. Right down to giving the shirts off our backs.

In our eyes, how did we view this all?  A neighborhood of gossipers that basically believed whatever lies that were told, made judgments without ever verifying or attempting to find out what we were really like. I eventually came to the conclusion they were all kinda nuts and decided I cannot go on forever like that.

In this life you will have folks that will love you and you will have folks that will hate you. It really doesn’t matter, but once someone has decided you are scum and they want nothing to do with you, you really cannot overcome that judgment. It honestly makes sense to just move. Life is too short to spend your time around anyone anywhere at any time that does not love you or appreciate you as a fellow human being.

During this 17 years we also left just about every winter and would move down south, buy a house and flip it in 2-5 months to escape winters. We have lived in a lot of places. Most neighbors were very nice and hospitable and we would get along well with others. Even now, in our new neighborhood, from day one we felt such peace and joy over this new move. Everyone is SO friendly. The people wave as they drive down the road when you’re walking down the street. We had folks drive up to our hose with pumpkins; one drove up and gave us flowers. Another showed up with banana bread welcoming us to the neighborhood. It was just amazing. We see various people walking by and they wave, stop to chat etc. It’s just such a nice change to be in a friendly, kind neighborhood with nice neighbors. Even the nice old lady that lives next door was good to us lending us her hose and water for a few weeks as we were trying to get our well going. This was all like a breath of fresh air.

In conclusion no discussion of neighbors would be complete without some advice from “the good book”. What does God say about all this? An absolute TON is said about this in the Bible. But basically it tells us to love our neighbors AS ourselves. That is mighty huge. It tells us to NOT devise evil against our neighbors seeing they dwell securely by us. The good book tells us not to lie, not to be too quick to judge others, it tells us to DO GOOD to everyone and treat others AS we would like to be treated. In our old neighborhood we tried. We did so many kindnesses to our neighbors that lived next to us, but I know these kindnesses were quickly forgotten and often ignored. They just wanted to hate us. In their eyes we were the bad apples and I bet they were super happy to get rid of us. In our eyes, we saw that there were a few rotten apples in that place and they spoiled the whole bunch. It ruined any chances of any relationship.

So, when going through this life, remember you only have one opportunity to do any good in this world. None of us are going to live forever. We get perhaps 60-100 years max right? That is your chance! That is your one and only shot to do any good. Treat everyone with kindness, love, respect, helpfulness. Go out of your way to do good deeds, you just don’t get that many chances, so don’t pass up ANY chances at all. To die on your death bed knowing that you have gone far above and beyond any call of duty… to know in your heart of hearts you were good, decent, honest and helpful to any and every one that came in your path. THIS is what lets you die with a good conscience. Knowing you did your dead level best before God and man. Because when it’s ALL over? Only the good that you have done will be remembered or rewarded in any way. Only one life, will soon be past, only what’s done for Christ will last.

Be a good neighbor to everyone you meet. And one last thing. When you hear rumors or gossip about anyone? DISCOUNT it. Do not take that to heart. Realize that you are probably getting a jaded side and only one person’s view. I have made it a point in the last 20 years to very actively do this. I don’t believe a word anyone says about anyone if it’s bad. I reserve that judgment until I meet someone myself. And even if the first meeting is bad or does not go well, I try and discount that too. Maybe they were having an off day? If you have three interactions with someone and they all go the same way and that person does not appear to be a friendly or kind person? Well then you can decide if you want to keep your distance then.

I have said this before and I probably should say it again now, because not everyone has seen it. Go out of your way to DO good deeds. My wife and I have bought strangers groceries more than once. When approached by the homeless or bums or even if we are not approached… we have found folks to just buy them food. Walk them right up to a McDonald’s or Burger King counter and say: “go for it, order anything you want” we pay for it. One of our favorites is this one: Have you ever seen some 80 year old lady in a grocery store with a head of lettuce and a can of tuna in her carriage?  We have! More than once. COUNTING her pennies in her wallet. I remember the first time this happened. I was behind her about 10 feet away and saw her looking in her wallet for a dollar bill. I thought wow. Where is her husband? And the answer came… she has no husband! He is passed away and she is left all alone and trying to live on his social security. Heart breaking … knowing how poor she is.  I would pull out $20 and sneak behind her, drop it on the floor and pretend I was looking at a box or a can of something on a shelf near her and then say:  “Oh excuse me ma’am, you dropped this out of your wallet”  as she turns around to see what I am saying I would reach down and pick it up and shove the $20 into her hand. She would protest: “Oh no dearie, that’s not mine.”  Oh yes it is! I would say, I saw it fall out of your wallet. Stuff the $20 in her hand and walk away fast before she could say another word! I love that stuff I tell you, if you are looking for a blessing try that one out on the next old person you see that looks poor and struggling.

OK well this is getting to long now. I guess I am done. I will stop here. People, just DO RIGHT. As often as you possibly can, just do good. Be good. God loves a cheerful giver and a good hearted person. The world has enough selfish, mean spirited people in it. Swim against the tide and make a positive effect as much as you possibly can. God knows this earth needs this so much. A blessed New Year to all.  Thanks for reading.

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