Get Off My Lawn (Please)

I am no Clint Eastwood in Gran Torino.  No shotgun. No tough, crusty old bigot guy attitude. Clint and I don’t have a lot in common, but there are a few similarities. I can be a bit crusty and I can spit. I don’t really know nor hang out with my neighbors. Oh, and our characters have similar views on private property rights.

My wife and I live on a busy two-lane highway. Our house is set back from the road a bit and the frontage of the property features a grassy ditch and berm next to the highway. I left for work the other day around 7 AM, pulled out of my driveway onto the highway and glanced at the berm while I drove past it. I then did a gooseneck, double take. 

Continuing towards the Farm Bureau office, I dialed my wife at work and asked her, “Did you see the new trees that have been planted on our property?” I was pretty sure she would have mentioned something that significant! I told her that I thought I saw a row of pine trees planted on top of our grassy berm. We spent the next 10 minutes over the phone trying to figure out where the trees might have come from and me explaining that I didn’t think I was hallucinating.

Later, in the afternoon, I received a series of photos featuring 2-3-foot-tall trees. My wife had arrived home and discovered that I had not been hallucinating. In fact, not only was there a row of pine trees but there was also a row of newly planted crabapples and other assorted deciduous trees that had appeared as well.

As I drove home that evening, we chatted some more, trying to figure out who would’ve put trees on our property… the township? The county? Neighbors? Was it like pink flamingos when you hit a milestone birthday? Tree planting is not inexpensive.

It was then that I decided to swing by and stop in at our new neighbor’s (neighbor A) house to see if I could get to the bottom of the mystery.  It’s always a good time to go up to someone’s house in the dark and ring the doorbell, explain who you are, and then bring up a touchy subject.  I was excited (not so much).

Here’s where I received clarification and things grew more complicated. After introducing myself and explaining the mystery, neighbor A told me that she and another neighbor (neighbor B) had gone halves in planting some new trees to cut down on the highway traffic noise and improve the view from the highway. She told me that she did not realize that the trees had been planted on our property…hmmm.

Further, she told me that she would talk with neighbor B to try to figure out what to do about the dilemma. The next day, I received a visit from neighbor B.  He was extremely apologetic about the tree mix up. He told me he thought that our property was neighbor A’s property…hmmm.  After the discussion, we came to a resolution.

Clint Eastwood would’ve said, “Get off my lawn and take your &$@%& trees with you.” I told neighbor B, “Those pine trees are really nice…you can leave them but the crabapple trees can go.” I did not offer to pay any trees (leading to a little guilt). So, my question is this: Am I a pushover?

Farmers, as owners of property throughout the county, state, and country, worry about trespassing, liability, illegal access, property uses, and other private property rights issues. Private property rights are an important part of the Farm Bureau’s foundation of beliefs. 

The Illinois Farm Bureau policy on the topic begins: We believe in the sanctity of private property and individual rights as provided by the U.S. Constitution, as the basis of American freedom and progress. Private property should be defined to include all land, timber or other valuable considerations associated with land ownership…”

I agree, so let me make this offer to our other neighbors that would like to help us out with our property: I have numerous dead ash trees from the emerald ash borer I need removed, I dream of having another garage/shed, we could use a fence, and we would love for the muck and debris to be removed from our pond.

This time, though, feel free to let me know before you start improving our property.