JANET SHORT: Welcome to the 'hood

When we moved across town into a plush new neighborhood, the 15-minute drive across our big city felt like entering another world. It felt as foreign as when I moved to DFW from Poteau four years back.We have a new a post office, barber, dry cleaner, grocer, dentist and veterinarian, plus about 15 restaurants to explore. If our old house was nice, this one is fabulous. It has a fireplace, tile floors and an alarm system! Is this swank or what? We even have a pond with Japanese goldfish in it.Our new neighborhood has landscaping, like in the movies. Instead of bare patches under the trees, we all have ground cover. It’s a little bit intimidating to think about trying to maintain it all.“Welcome to the neighborhood,” said the checker at the grocery store, when I told her we just moved in. “Welcome,” said the waiter at the posh pizza place. Being a friendly Okie with a small-town outlook, I waved at the postman and chatted with the neighbor’s yard man. I was delighted when the guys next door stopped to meet us. The retired gentleman across the street filled us in about the history of our house. I felt welcomed to the area and eager to meet the remaining neighbors.Everyone seemed a little down-in-the-mouth about the lady at the apex of the cul-de-sac. Her husband works out of town and she’s alone a lot. “Too much,” one said. Hmmmm. I wondered what that meant.This week we had a visit from the Code Enforcement Officer. “Someone around here needs to get a hobby,” he said, but he wouldn’t say who, only “they” call him a lot. They’ve objected to our little black trailer on the grass. Well, of course we knew it was against the rules but we hid it behind the bushes and asked permission of the only neighbor who could readily see it. “Move it,” said the officer, “Put it on solid surface.” He was nice enough to not write a ticket and he gave us ten days to figure out where to park the trailer. What a mean-spirited thing to do, I thought, to turn in the newbies while we’re still trying to unpack and figure out how to clean a koi pond. How un-neighborly!The next day the garbage collector skipped us. I called and found out someone had dug through our trash and not all of it was in trash bags. We broke the rules again! Dan helped me bag it all but now we have to figure out what to do with this week’s garbage. What a picky neighborhood!I finally saw a girl outside at the lonely house next door. She seemed to be calling to someone out of my sight. Who? I wondered so I asked, as a simple gesture of neighborliness. I wished I had not.It was her dogs, she explained, pointing to a huge Rottweiler doing his business on the next neighbor’s lawn. We managed to introduce ourselves before he and his two buddies charged me with barred teeth and ferocious barking and growling.The Rottie, the Whippet and the Boston terrier backed me all the way to my door while the naïve young woman followed, alternately shouting at the dogs and explaining, “They don’t mean it; they won’t bite; that one’s just a pup; he’s saying ‘hello.’” The Boston terrier jumped me and I kicked him aside. He got in a mean scratch but no bite.The dog pack cornered my husband next morning when he stopped his truck at the street. I ran to his rescue with a walking stick, something I wished for when it was my turn to be greeted by the neighborhood un-welcoming committee.We both scolded the neighbor, telling her there are rules about dogs running loose in this city. She seemed to shrug it off. That upset me so much I told her if I was attacked again I would shoot her dog!Welcome to the ‘hood, sister. I wonder what’s next. I sure hope there aren’t rules for keeping fish. I guess I’d better get used to it and learn to fit in. I’ve started carrying a big stick.Janet Short is a former LeFlore County resident, now living and writing in North Texas. She writes a blog at janetshort.com. You can write to her at shorttakesonlife@gmail.com.