Dear Ann Cannon • Recently my neighbor cut down a solid wall of ivy and vines that happened to be the dividing line between our properties. Because this “wall” extended about 2-3 feet onto my property, I assumed it was mine because there was so much growth on my side.
Anyway. Back to the cut. It exposed my entire yard to this neighbor and two other neighbors. It also exposed a rundown fence that was probably built in the years following the Great Depression. You know. With old pioneer wagon wheels. I had no idea this “fence” was even there. Because there are so many gaps in the fence, my dog can now escape, so I’ll be forced to pay for a new fence. Neat!
What should I do? Should I ever speak to my neighbor again? What are some rules to follow in the wake of this disaster?
— How Rude! or Fencing Lessons! or Angry and Exposed!
Dear How Rude • First, good job on your sign-offs!
OK. The situation you describe, unfortunately, isn’t unusual. And it’s the kind of thing that can affect neighborly relations for years to come. I’m sorry this has happened to you and (frankly) to your neighbor, as well.
Since the vines originated on your neighbor’s property, I suppose he’s within his rights to do whatever he wants to with them. But, for what it’s worth, I think he should have conferred with you first, especially since his decision dramatically changed the look, not to mention the privacy, of your place. Also, what’s up with people who want to hack down a green wall, leaving a ratty-looking fence in its place? I don’t get it. But that’s just me.
Now, on to your question: How should you proceed where your neighbor is concerned? I think you need to figure out what you want your relationship with him to look like in the future. If you don’t want to speak to your neighbor ever again, then don’t. Throwing a rock through a window or perhaps a Molotov cocktail into his backyard would obviously have the same chilling effect, although I do not recommend that course of action.
Or you could always opt for the other extreme, i.e. pretend that nothing has happened and carry on as usual. Lalalalala! That’s an option, too.
Personally, I don’t think it’s a bad idea for you to ask your neighbor why he decided to cut down the wall so that you can hear his side of the story. Then tell him (politely and calmly) that you were surprised by and unhappy with the decision to cut down the ivy for all the reasons you mention here. The fact that your dog can escape is especially problematic. You might even put the ball in his court by asking, “So what can we do about this?”
He probably won’t offer to help cover the cost of a new fence. And your relationship may suffer anyway as a result of your conversation. But it’s possible you’ll find some satisfaction in having said your piece, and your neighbor may think twice about making a decision that affects someone besides himself.
Dear Tribune Readers • I’m the oldest of my siblings, and whenever people tell me I look younger than my brothers, I’m thrilled! In fact, I actively encourage people to tell me (and them) that very thing. But the following letter from a reader provides a different and useful point of view.
Dear Ann Cannon • I don’t have a question, but I do have a request aimed at all people who see two or more siblings and feel compelled to ask them, “So who’s the oldest?” DON’T. Someone will get his or her feelings hurt, especially if the younger sibling looks older. My sister and I are five years apart, but time after time we are asked who is older. I’m older but look several years younger than my sister. I’ve started jumping in when I sense the question is coming and say, “I’m the oldest,” or “This is my baby sister.” She laughs it off, but I can tell she is wounded by being asked so often. There must be a better way to find out who is older. Please help these well-meaning (I hope) but clueless people.
— Concerned Sibling