It’s been said that you only get one chance to make a first impression, and I’m afraid I missed my opportunity to make a good first impression with our newest neighbors.
The little house directly across the street from our farm has stood there for over 70 years. I believe it was built by John and Mary Reddinger during the late 1940s. They raised their two sons and two daughters there and remained great neighbors until first Mary, and then John, passed away. We never visited back and forth other than when they might’ve come to buy eggs from my parents’ chickens, but our families chatted whenever we saw each other outside and their son Charlie was our hired guy for several years when he was a teenager. Not coincidentally, their one daughter married my uncle’s hired man after meeting him when my uncle would bring him along to our farm to help with haymaking or harvesting grain.
One of the many nice things about the Reddingers is that they always called us anytime there was an auto accident at the bad intersection bordering both our farm and their house. They would also try to get the license number for us, just in case the accident turned into a hit-and-run, as these accidents sometimes did.
It’s been about 13 years since the former Reddinger residence was sold and, since then, there’s been a steady stream of families coming and going from what apparently became a rental property. Often, new people moved in and out before we even got the chance to meet them.
Ironically, it was a car accident that led to meeting our newest neighbor one recent Sunday afternoon, and let’s just say that I certainly wasn’t dressed for the occasion. This time there was no doubt that there had been an accident. Dennis and I were sitting on the porch, while I took a break from relocating flowers into planters, when there came a horrific screeching sound from the aforementioned bad intersection, which is out of our home’s view.
The noise stopped briefly, then resumed with a deafening sound of revving and tires squealing —which came to a sudden stop as the heretofore unseen vehicle came to a crunching stop when it ran through our vinyl fence beside the barn. The little sports car landed backwards, with its rear facing a startled steer in our barnyard and its front end jutting out onto the roadway. Fortunately, our wire-and-post barnyard fence sits about 10 feet inside the vinyl fence, so it remained unscathed. And, also fortunately, neither the driver nor his passenger was injured, though it must’ve been a wild ride.
This loud collision attracted the attention of a number of people, who slowly materialized across the road from the barn to assess what was going on. There was also rubbernecking from drivers passing by, who had to steer out around the front end of the car and pieces from the four sections of vinyl fence that had fallen victim to the intruding vehicle.
What followed was the appearance of the local police officer on duty, apparently summoned by a passing motorist. He took down both the driver’s and my information as I photographed the car and its license plate with my cellphone. A rollback truck eventually came and extracted the car from the former fence. For a while, it seemed like the car, which didn’t appear to be badly damaged, could be driven away under its own power, and it was — for less than a quarter mile, when it rolled to a stop at the side of the road. The rollback truck following it then towed it onboard and off they went.
After the excitement died down, it occurred to me that perhaps the out-of-control vehicle might also have hit our scales shed, which sits right along the roadway between the intersection and our main barn. While Dennis finished up evening chores, I took a little walk to have a look at the scales shed. It was then I noticed a young man and woman standing on the porch of the little house across the street, which had most recently been reoccupied less than two weeks earlier.
They were looking at me and I was looking at them. All I could do was give them a wry smile, hold my arms out wide and with a shrug say, “Welcome to the neighborhood!” We all had a good chuckle, and since I had to climb over a fence to view the side of the scales shed that faced the road, I walked across to introduce myself and Dennis, who had followed me to the fence.
We had a nice chat. They asked, “Does this happen often?”
I truthfully replied, “Sometimes,” and then added what I hoped were comforting words, “But it usually happens in the winter when it snows.”
We parted in a socially distanced way, with smiles instead of handshakes.
It was only as I walked back toward the house that I glanced down at my attire. I was dressed for repotting in old raggedy shorts, a stained T-shirt and my barn boots. I’m sure that made quite a first impression. I hope they’re not judging this “book” by my cover.