Obnoxious Neighbors – A Quora Induced Flashback

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Obnoxious Neighbors

Estimated reading time: 3 minutes

While perusing my favorite social media – Quora – I stumbled upon a question that triggered an immediate flashback. The question was “Have you ever had a neighbor who believed they had free reign of your property?” The question brought back painful memories of a nasty feud with my first neighbors while living in Southern Mississippi.

That feud lasted five years. By the time it was over I had charged the neighbors with misdemeanor trespassing and made several calls to our local police. It was the ugliest neighbor conflict I’d ever had, up until then. But it turned out to be only a prequel to an even worse feud.

The Story

My answer to the question “Have you ever had a neighbor who believed they had free reign of your property?”

Back in 1993 my first wife and I purchased a house on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Our house was a new construction, we were the first owners, and it was also the last piece of property in the subdivision to be developed. Our right-side neighbors, an elderly couple, had been one of the first residents, moving in back in 1975.

For all the years they had lived there they used our property for extra gardening space, and as a dumping ground for their yard waste. Our one-acre lot was partially wooded, and I found huge piles of branches, leaves, and household trash scattered throughout the woods. Apparent leftovers from these neighbors. No problem, it was pre-existing conditions, so my wife and I just worked to clean up and do our own landscaping.

The problem was, our neighbors didn’t seem to understand they couldn’t use our yard as their private dump anymore. We woke up one morning several months after moving in, and discovered a huge mound of leaves, branches, and other yard waste right in the middle of lawn area in our backyard. Trying to be polite and “get-along,” I talked to the guy and explained they couldn’t use our yard as a dumping ground. He agreed to remove it. His method of “removal” was to just torch the pile and burn it. No fire permit, no warning to us, and he left a big burn scar in the lawn.

We let this go, which turned out to be a big mistake. For the next several years, we would periodically discover piles of yard waste in our yard. The lady next door would simply clean up her yard, and haul everything over into our yard. She would always haul this waste over during the night, or times when my wife and I were both gone. No amount of complaints would change her behavior, and her husband would openly avoid us.

After nearly five years of this, my wife and I had enough. After finding yet another pile of yard waste, I called the police and filed a trespassing complaint against my neighbor. In Mississippi, this was a misdemeanor and so I had to go to night court to testify in support of my charge.

The night of our court hearing, the judge had my wife wait outside the courtroom while I testified first. The night court prosecutor and judge were pretty hostile to me during their questioning. Extremely hostile. They included comments about how “neighbors were supposed to get along,” and other similar crap. I managed to hold my own during their questioning, then they called in my wife.

The judge asked my wife to explain our reasons for the trespassing charges, and she just lit into the judge with “They have been doing this for five years!” How long should we have to put up with this?” The judge looked shocked, looked at me, said “five years?” and I nodded my head in confirmation.

My wife finally ran down, the judge gave some judge-homily crap about neighbors getting along and ruled against us – no trespassing. One week later we found yet another pile of trash in our yard, and I called the police, again. When they showed up, I explained we had already taken the neighbors to court once, the judge decided this wasn’t trespassing, and now our neighbors did it again. I suggested that possibly if their house accidently burned down, this crap would stop.

The police, not happy with the entire situation, and not happy with my comments, finally took action. They issued our neighbors a “no trespass” order and advised them that if they set foot on our property again, it would be in violation of a police order and they would be charged with a misdemeanor.

We finally had peace. Then a year later the husband lost the house due to gambling debts and they moved away.

Quora Answer

Not The End

I’d like to say this was the end of my neighbor conflict, but I can’t. It actually turned out to be the beginning. When the neighbors lost their house due to his gambling debts in late 1999, the house was sold through the casino. It was purchased by a middle-aged couple Robert and Kathy Garwood. Kathy died of cancer shortly after they bought the property, but before they moved in. So Robert moved in as a middle-aged widower.

I wrote about what happened next in my blog posts “My Encounter with Robert Garwood, Part I,” and “My Encounter with Robert Garwood, Part II“. In short, within two years, Robert would destroy my marriage, attempt to smear me with the most vile lies I’ve ever been a victim of, and generally turn my life upside down. By November, 2001, I was a middle-aged divorcé, but still living in my house.

Still Not The End

After Robert and his new wife – my ex-wife – married they moved away but kept the house. About one year later they rented the house to one of his cousins and their family. This family proceeded to cause me problems for the next several years. We finally reconciled, and these neighbors became friends. However, that ended with Hurricane Katrina in 2005. After the storm, the Garwoods kicked their cousin’s family out and moved back in.

Winnie and I left Mississippi in September 2006 and subsequently sold our house. Several years later I returned to my former Mississippi hometown on a business trip. During this trip I visited some of my former neighbors, whom I actually did get along with. One amusing story I heard was that the owners of my former home were engaged in constant feuds with Robert and my ex who still lived next door. It seemed that the latest conflict was the owners of my former home accusing the Garwood’s of stealing their mail.

Which leaves me wondering if there isn’t something to the Chinese tradition of Feng Shui.

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