|Duke the Good Dog and King the Stray (who murdered my cat and tore up my son's 1987 Cadillac in a fit of blood rage)|
Front porch of the old house.
In April 2019, I will have been a twenty-year resident of the Newbury Township in Wabaunsee County, Kansas. It is the longest I have ever lived in one place in my life. Five years was the longest stretch of time before, and usually it was far less. I had some initial doubt of the wisdom to move here. I bought the place on an impulse because it felt right in my heart. When there was no turning back, my brain begin to offer up second thoughts. I left behind a wonderful old two story house just a few blocks from my office. I moved into a small two-bedroom double-wide set on a foundation with a "real" roof. I was taking my son away from his friends in Topeka, most of whom he had known since day care. I was now committed to about a 56 mile round trip commute to work in all weather. Maybe it was a bad idea. My son certainly thought so.
Soon after we moved, our neighbors, Mr. and Mrs. Merl Lietz dropped by for a visit. They welcomed us to the neighborhood, invited us to attend their church, and warned us to drive far to the right up any hill. Their friendliness was a godsend. I never suffered another moment of doubt again.
I try hard not to bother my neighbors but sometimes I have to ask for help. One bitterly cold morning I was changing a flat tire and discovered the spare was flat, too. I called Mr. Lietz to ask for a ride down to the gas station so I could air up the spare but he came with an air bubble instead and helped finish changing the tire. I was only a few minutes late to work thanks to him.
When my son and I went to Hawaii for ten glorious days, Mr. Lietz fed my dog and looked in on my cat. (Boy, those were the good old days - before chickens and horses!) When my son wrecked his car on our road, it was Mr. Lietz who called me to say everyone was safe. He diplomatically suggested calling a tow truck right away. The car was in a dangerous spot for anyone coming over the hill. When I came to collect my son and his friend, Mr. Lietz asked if I needed a hug, and you know what? I did need a hug.
Mr. Lietz owns a construction company with caterpillars and road graders and earth movers. He kept our township road clear of snow and terrible ruts in wet weather. He graded the snow from my drive without being asked and wanted no money for it. He was shocked when I offered. "Jackie! It's what neighbors do!" He would grade my drive after he had cleared the roads, apparently on his own time. I only missed work one time due to snow, thanks to Mr. Lietz. After he was retired and someone else was grading the road, he called me after a particularly deep snow and asked if I was snowed in. I said I was. One of his relatives with a big tractor who passed by feeding his cattle every day graded the drive the next morning. He did it in five minutes. I was so thankful that Mr. Lietz remembered me! I hate to bother the men around here because they have real jobs farming and ranching - not tending data in the cube farm. I probably would have been snowed in until it all melted rather than ask for help.
Mr. Lietz has done a lot of good things in the neighborhood. The winter before I bought the place, a terrible rainfall caused the little creek to come out of the banks. When it rains hard, the creek becomes a blasting, roaring monster sweeping away anything in the terrible currents. It picked up an eight passenger station wagon from beside the garage and carried it about a mile downstream. My son and his friends would always trek down the creek to see it. I learned just last year that Mr. Lietz was responsible for finally pulling that car out of the creek. I am sure it was polluting the creek for all those years.
Any time I needed advice on who to hire for plumbing, construction, fencing or mechanical work, I would call Mr. Lietz. His recommendations have always proven to be excellent choices. Bill's Plumbing and Heating in Paxico. Dan Roth, Paxico, built my barn and later my house, and replaced the roof on my garage. All work well done, reasonably priced, and finished right away! Merl himself has done site work on my property. I was not sure if he would consider clearing the site for the hay shelter enough work to bother with. He grinned and said "It's what we do!"
Merl's recommendation for a mechanic was Don William in Maple Hill. He was a great person to do business with. He was honest and did excellent work. He was tragically killed in an accident on a terribly icy night while trying to tow a car from a deep ditch on I-70. Don was like Merl, both are men who take care of their neighbors. Don made a lot of repairs on my son's car when he could have simply replaced parts much faster and more easily for him, but far more expensive for me. He was a good man. So many folks attended Mr. William's funeral that the minister remarked on it. He said it was unusual for someone of Mr. William's age to have so many folks at the funeral. He said, "This is what happens when you take care of people."
Mr. Lietz recommended Shawn Ebert from Paxico for installing the barbed wire fence around my restored pasture. Shawn has a full time job and a family so I figured it would take most of the summer to get the fence in. In an unbelievably short amount of time, Shawn had that fence in. All these years later, it is still straight and nice looking. Shawn built the new corral and hung the John Deere gates. It looks so good! He also spent about 45 minutes under my lawn tractor, wrestling out the Kong toy that had lodged between the shroud and the mower blade, effectively stopping a 26 horsepower mower. I bought a floor jack so I could do this myself, but after seeing how hard Shawn had to work at it, there is NO WAY I could have done that myself. He saved me several hundreds of dollars and I did not have to tow the mower to Shawnee County. Shawn also set up the heater in the water tank for the horses. Who does such kind things for an old broken-down woman?
The farmer who sells hay for my horses came to check on me after the last terrible wind storm. Many big trees were down in the roads. The men in the county were out with their chainsaws clearing the roads. He came by to make sure I had not blown away. It was comforting to know I was on someone's radar.
I have called my next-door neighbors to help load a couch into the back of my truck. The same neighbor helped push my lawn tractor when I got it high centered on the road and I simply could not push it out myself. They looked in on Mattie when I had to leave her in the big pen during a terribly hot summer day.
I called the only young man left in the entire neighborhood to help me change a tire one night not long ago. I tried to give him money but he insisted I take half of it back.
Years ago, the repaired electrical generator was in the back of my truck. I backed the truck to the pole so I could use the generator. After 5 days without electricity I could not wait any longer to have heat in the house! That thing was sooooo heavy that there was no way I could possibly move it myself. I called the neighbors to the south and before long, two very strong young men showed up.
I do not know if people groan inwardly when I call to ask for help. I do not call unless I am 100% sure I can not do a thing myself. Without fail, they have come right away and cheerfully done whatever was needed. Often people do things without being asked. I am sure to have forgotten all the kind things people have done for me over 20 years. I try not bother other people but sometimes I do need a little help. I guess I have been here long enough that I am a genuine part of the neighborhood. It absolutely feels like home.
|Miss Mattie on the new front porch, still a puppy.|