When I was maybe in the fifth grade, maybe third grade, it’s hard to pinpoint now, a family built and moved into a house one driveway down and across the street from my house. I noticed they had a male child. He appeared to be a little older than me, a couple of grades ahead maybe. Living in the woods there aren't many people, especially kids, available for interaction so I was excited by the opportunity to make a new friend. I seen him riding his bike one day after they had moved in. He was just going up and down the little one and a half lane paved road that passed my house. Our house is set back from the road about 50 yards or so. I watched him for a while and then I decided to get on my bike and check him out. I rode down to the road and began riding around too, sometimes following, sometimes doing my own thing, waiting for the right time to approach and introduce myself. I had stopped in my driveway and the kid pedaled over to me. I thought it was going to finally be time to meet each other exchange stories and stuff. But when he stopped he bent down, grabbed a big handful of gravel and threw it at me as hard as he could. WTF! I was dumbfounded. He quickly rode away and vanished down his own driveway to his house. I was just plain confused. What did I do to deserve that? Try to be nice? I went back to my house to tend my wounds when I seen him back on his bike and riding up and down the road again. This was obviously war and I had to defend myself. I did the only rational thing I could think of. I got my BB gun, Daisy Red Rider with the compass in the stock, set up just outside my back door and began firing volleys his way each time he passed my driveway. I got in a few direct hits and he vanished back into his house for the final time. I didn’t see him after that. I went inside and continued on with life.
Some hours later, after dark, there was an uncharacteristic knock on our front door. We live in the country. We don’t lock our doors. Nobody knocks. My dad answered and it was the kids dad, Mr. McGill. Uh oh. Dammit. The cloud of doom started to descend upon me. Much the same as when you pass a highway patrol doing 80. Mr. McGill explained that his son had been shot by your son with a BB gun. For no reason! My dad spun and immediately asked me if I had indeed been shooting at this man’s son with my BB gun…a known capital offense. I told him about the bike riding and the gravel throwing and about how I was afraid for my life so I defended myself against the older boy with my BB gun. My dad turned to Mr. McGill and said that sounded perfectly reasonable and that he needed to teach his kid to not throw rocks. Yay dad! I was told to not shoot at people and that was that. Mr. McGill was livid and didn’t agree at all. He yelled and walked away toward his house yelling the entire way. End of this chapter. But the beginning of the McGill saga.
I tried on several occasions to make friends with the kid across the road. Every time I tried it would always end up with me on the bad end of whatever it was we were doing. Eventually I quit trying. We played football once in his front yard, er, pasture. How harmful could that be, right? We were tossing a football amicably back and forth when he started running toward me and threw the ball at my face as hard as he could. I didn’t have time to react and my nose exploded. Blood everywhere. And laughter. WTF? Maybe he had mental problems. Based on my experiences though I would expect he was getting some significant repentant beatings in the name of god from his overzealous dad of Christ. It sucked for me but I felt worse for that kid.
The stories continue. This is my account of the next event and I have the overall theme correct but the details are pretty fuzzy and I wasn’t a firsthand witness so I am using poor memory and some interpretation. I’m guessing I was maybe 14 years old. My sister, Joy, got married right out of high school to a local boy. Eventually they moved into a house next door to my dad’s place. They rented it from a family that had lived in the house for a long long time but had to move on. I don’t remember why but I suspect they got too old to live on their own and either died or got moved to a care facility. Neighbors were so far apart that there wasn’t any close bonding so we knew our neighbors but we didn’t really KNOW our neighbors. My sister had Samoyed dogs. Big white fluffy husky looking Alaska sled pulling type dogs. I can’t actually remember the details at the moment but they also had a third outdoor dog that I believe was a result of a bad accidental coupling between their female Samoyed and a german shepherd. The result was a snow white short haired large boxy german shepherdy looking thing. It was always very shy of strangers and would run off to a safe distance and bark to keep the strangers away. There wasn’t anything threatening about it. It was just a posturing mechanism for self defense. The fenced yard of my sister’s house fronted the little country lane we lived on and the dogs were all seen daily by everyone who lived in the area or traveled the road daily. They were big and white and impossible to not see as you drove past. Well apparently one sad day the dogs had managed to get out of their fenced yard as dogs are want to do. When my sis got home they found the dogs at home but out of the yard. They herded them inside without much fanfare and went on with their evening. Soon there came a knock at the door and it was the same irritating father of the rock throwing, nose exploding boy. He was ranting about how the dogs had been out and had ventured into his yard and had threatened his sheep. The sheep live in a pen and do not come out nor do any other animals get in so we knew that the shy dog had most likely just barked and the angry man took the opportunity to be an ass. After his rant he left and the evening moved on. The german shepherd dog had seemed pretty normal when my sis got home but now he was starting to look sick. They didn’t see anything suspicious right away so they figured it might have been fatigue of the day. Later the dog seemed worse and they looked at him again and they found a tiny, almost invisible red stain. A stain caused by a 0.22 caliber bullet. The dood across the street had shot the dog. He didn’t come across the street to ask about the loose dog. He didn’t ask my sister or my father or my grandparents who are all there most all of every day. No, he decided the best thing to do would be to shoot the dog. And then he had the nerve to go bitch about the dogs being out after he had shot the do and didn’t even bother to tell them he had shot the dog. Did the dog threaten the sheep? I dunno, maybe. Were the sheep in any danger? No possible way. Was this devout bible thumping man of god just angry at the world and took every opportunity to be a complete asshole. Yes and I’m sure he had plenty of friends that were clones of him.
This event was the culmination of a series of events that were always instigated by the people across the street whether it was throwing rocks or shooting dogs or etc. We had enough. My brother-in-law, RJ, was a peaceful dood and I don’t think I had ever seen him angry in all the time I knew him. He went crazy mad and was going across the road to yell or fight or do whatever was in his head. I went with him kind of as a backup in case he got too nutty. Mostly I was just a witness. I think my dad and the remainder of the family were outside on our property just keeping watch and seeing what was happening. We banged on the door and there were lots of threats and finger pointing and insults being hurled and it was basically a testosterone war without punches thrown. After the last insult and threat had been thrown we retreated back to our side of the road. Nobody wants to be at war with a neighbor and when you live in the woods neighbors aren’t even close enough to have a fight but these people had managed to be about as unpleasant and idiotic as any people I had ever known. There was a father, a mother, a son and a daughter and they had all managed to start some kind of conflict whether it was on a school bus or at the grocery store or in our own front yard. Other than my BB gun incident there had never been any type of retaliation from our side of the road. But killing a pet went way over the line. We thought hard and long at how to make them suffer some of our irritation they had been dishing out all these years. I like to think that I came up with the idea but perhaps it wasn’t me. I think it was though. It was genius then but I’m not proud of it now, as an adult. Retaliation only escalates to some end that nobody wants. I was a young teen and I didn’t see that. Everyone in the country has long driveways and they are usually covered in small gravel so there isn’t mud and there is some traction in the snow. The people across the street had used a large very gray gravel to cover their driveway. The gravel was the same general height and color as a standard roofing nail. I knew where there was a large supply of readily available roofing nails. I’m not proud of spreading roofing nails all the way up and down their driveway in the middle of the night. But we never heard another word from the stupid people from across the street. We watched in the morning as the spectacle played out. Four people. Four cars. Sixteen tires. Sixteen flats before they reached the end of the driveway. And it continued for a while. I don’t think they ever could find all the nails buried in the gravel. The act may have actually been a catalyst for positive change. I’m pretty sure the parents divorced not too long after that and the kids moved away leaving the man to be angry at himself and the walls of his empty house for the remainder of his days. Again, from what I have learned as an adult about people and relationships I don’t think it would be much of a stretch to make a case for some significant physical and emotional abuse in that house for a long time. Once more, I will say that I’m sorry I did the nail thing. I’m also sorry that there are people in the world who are mean.