The Week in the Wastebasket

Freedom. It’s constantly held up as the ultimate human ideal, the be-all and end-all to the world’s problems.  We pay dearly in money and lives so we can help people all over the world be ‘free.’ Sometimes this means the freedom to abuse the group on the next rung down. So just how much freedom do you want?

You could move here, we have enough freedom to make you puke. Many folks here proudly stand by their freedom to be as annoying as possible because there’s no law against it. In seven years I’ve seen a distinct pattern emerge in my neighborhood—as old people who worked for the mining company die off, their relatives come in and dump the houses for whatever they can get. Still, many houses fester behind faded for-sale signs, and sometimes they are rented. Roll the dice. Sometimes groups of people buy them and turn them into their own exclusive heaps of shit and there’s nothing you can do about it. The houses collect more dwellers, junk cars, motorcycles, ATVs, and outside dogs. They degrade property values and quality of life for the few people left here who still care about the neighborhood.

The cars fly by on my street going 50 or 60, the speed limit is 25. A popular vehicle here is the ‘quad’ (, a machine that is designed to be out destroying desert life, not raced up and down the street over, and over, and over. Ask nicely? Been there, done that.  So now I’m the girl, in an adrenaline-fueled fit, who firmly planted herself in front of a speeding quad. (I too have the freedom to act like an idiot.) The quad stopped, even though he would have been within his rights to run me over. It was a kid and I yelled at him to slow down. I didn’t know it was a kid, they’re all suited up and wearing helmets. Ten minutes later the patriarch of the clan walked onto my property and threatened me. Of course I called the cops, and a sheriff came. The next day the guy stood in front of my house taking pictures. More posturing, obscenities, cops. I was advised to seek a restraining order, which I was granted the next day. Now, members of the clan drive past my house leaning on their horns and sticking their heads out the window while adopting their best menacing glares.

Why? Because they can. There’s no law against childish intimidation tactics.

A couple days ago I received a summons back to court to respond to the neighbor’s legal appeal that the restraining order be dismissed (we all have the right to this). I hate living like this so I was prepared to drop it, under the condition that I be allowed to have an amicable, or at least neutral, conversation with the guy, with a mediator. I was feeling relief. All I want is for them to have some respect for their neighbors. When you move into a neighborhood, trash your house and yard and use the street as your personal racecourse, you have to expect that some neighbors will find this unpleasant. No, it’s not life-endangering—except for our collective blood pressure. I’m not the only one who has called the sheriff. They’ve pretty much alienated what’s left of our little swath of people who give a shit.

I sat in court waiting and thinking. This isn’t a power struggle, this isn’t about control. Trying to maintain your home as a haven instead of a snake pit by seeking just a tiny bit of respect is a basic human desire—but not to some freedom-lovers. I waited, the judge waited, the stenographer waited for half an hour after the appointed time. The neighbor never showed up. He went through some trouble to get this appointment, had the chance to resolve this, and he can’t even man up enough to show.  The judge had no alternative but to let the order stand.

Maybe it’s been bred out of them by the twisted survival instincts of overpopulation, but freedom requires a certain responsibility that many humans simply don’t have. Think twice about asking for it.

OK enough of the dark side. Here’s why I carry on:

Dove in nest tending to her babies.

A customer advised taking a couple of the little plastic tubes off a hummingbird feeder so bigger birds could also enjoy the feast. It worked! Male Bullock’s oriole drinking sugar water. Strength to go forth and multiply!

It isn’t much, but it’s what we’ve got: Wading down the middle of the ancient San Pedro. Local archeological sites date back to Clovis people 12,000 years ago. When we get a really good monsoon, the river floods. It’s a vital riparian gem with enough water to host a huge array of wildlife. Saw lots of raccoon, deer, coyote, javelina prints and scat.

Some parts were deep enough for Jasmine to paddle. Many once-mighty cottonwoods lay across the river, fallen in previous floods, creating pools and dams and little waterfalls.

Tracks of water snakes that swim along the bottom, but I don’t know what kind.

Most of the tadpoles (pic from last May) will be eaten before they reach adulthood, but many also survive…see next pic!

There were thousands of these! One can never tire of witnessing this! Never!

The San Pedro can flood out during a good monsoon. Pic taken a few years ago, recent monsoons have not brought this kind of rise in water.

We had bought this box of Hornady ‘zombie loads’ a while back and kept the box as a novelty to keep on a shelf. But if that bad acid going around Florida spreads out here…

27 responses to “The Week in the Wastebasket

  1. I’m sorry this is happening to you. Our culture has been shattered, and I tend to be weak and surrender to that fact.

    The pictures are beautiful.

    • Hi Carl, thanks. No need to be sorry though, it’s all part of life’s rich pageant. I think feeling trapped causes us to be even more sensitive, and makes picking up the pieces of a shattered culture seem impossible. Constantly fighting it is exhausting and I surrender to it every day in one way or another as well.

  2. such a shame that what use to be a nice neighborhood has to be ruined by a few idiots who think they are the ‘;king ‘sh#$ of turd island’..sounds like they need to be hit with a ball of their own poop!

    • Hi Sue, and it’s happening all over America. Neighborhoods I used to love have either been replaced by strip malls, turned into slums, or as I found in my recent trip back to CT, so overpriced that regular folks can no longer afford to live there.

  3. The nuts like this guy and his kind think they own the roads and the trails are theirs to tear up and make into dusty gullies. You might have more luck with the AZ Highway Patrol. Underage kids aren’t supposed to be riding on public roads around here. I’m assuming they are not supposed to do that there, either. Meanwhile, be vigilant for safety. Very sorry you are finding this to be such a trial.


    • Hi Emjay, Arizona counties have strict protocols to follow, I’ve learned. I’ve been trying to get speed bumps put in on my street for about five years now, but they won’t pay for them. Whereas the ‘city’ has a ridiculously high police-to-resident ratio, the ‘county’ can go eat dirt. The few sheriffs that serve the county have vast areas to patrol. Which is really what I’m saying—you need your neighbors!

  4. Freedom without that responsibility you spoke of ends up being nothing more than license. And of course, those who have never been held to account by anyone tend to develop the just slightly delusional belief that they have the right to do as they please – without consequence.

    Luckily, I don’t have many neighborhood problems, living as I do in an apartment complex filled mostly with obsessive young professionals who either are going to work, coming home from work, or heading off to jogging or the gym.

    However: some of the same behavior shows up on the blogs, and I’m growing less tolerant. I just stopped reading someone whose blog I never failed to read and comment on because (1) he suggested anyone who disagreed with him would have their posts removed, and (2) he posted an absolutely horrid, misogynistic and crude political cartoon.

    Is he free to do that? Of course. And I’m free to delete my link to his blog. Now, if we could just figure out for you where the delete button is for your obnoxious neighbors, you’ll be all set!

    Love the frog!

    • Hi Linda, ha ha ‘delete’ is my new favorite word! Thanks for your input—it didn’t occur to me that people who behave this way have probably been doing so all their lives, and raise their children to do the same. In the end they do a terrible disservice to their kids, community, country. Who’s going to help them when they desperately need it? I love my other neighbors and if we need help, we just ask. Could be anything from chasing down a dog who bolted out a gate, to lifting something heavy, to being there in an emergency.

      The consequences for folks who think respect is a drag cannot even be known until they happen. And I’m sure their lives are as stressful as mine, because aggression must be very oppressive. What a burden to carry around.

      And yes, it’s highly evident in the blogosphere and comment sections of news articles everywhere!

  5. I’d like to think that what you have just experienced is a new cultural phenomenon but its not. Uncivil conduct was built into our culture more than a hundred years ago. Sure, most people are civil, but there is some small percentage that will never be able to communicate without bullying, intimidation, obscene gestures and language. It is just a fact of “Americana” life.

    I came from a rough and tumble background where there uncivil behavior was tolerated. Fortunately I had a mother who pointed out how wrong it was and cut this potentially bad behavior out of my cultural behavior chain. It is a behavior that is passed from generation to generation and I’ve witnessed it in both the rich and the poor.

    I was really surprised to see the wetlands photographs. It kind of rearranges my notion of desert life. Makes me wonder what else is out there that I don’t know about.

    One question, I have been to a place in New Mexico named Clovis. Did this culture inhabit a large area of the Southwest?

    Hang in there. You are a wonderful and powerful writer!

    • Hi Bill, and surely longer. Look at “shunning” and other very public forms of humiliation which have been around forever. Considering the widely varied areas Americans come from, and the trials they endured, it stands to reason that aggression is a hardwired trait that families pass down. Aggression has been a primary human characteristic since Day One. We need it sometimes for survival, but it’s completely misplaced in modern ‘civilization,’ if you can call it that. Most of us use aggression (unconsciously) as a form of self-preservation, or to protect our home or loved ones. I confess it has a place in my life too—as a last resort. Uncivil conduct just because you can is on the rise as more and more Americans gripe about their lack of ‘freedom.’ They don’t know the difference and never will.

      The Clovis culture is (or was) considered to be the primary prehistoric culture in the Americas, although these opinions are always in dispute. Well-excavated sites in the west and southwest have exposed their arrowheads and tools—and mammoth, mastodon, and bison skeletons with arrows stuck in them. Then the big game disappeared, and with them the culture. But new findings reveal there were other paleo-indian cultures predating them who migrated across the preglacial Bering land bridge from Siberia, etc. long before the Clovis. The first Clovis artifacts were discovered in Clovis, NM, in the 1930s and the biggest site is in Texas. But here where I live, the San Pedro Valley, contains the highest concentration of sites in N. America.

      I just read an article yesterday called “the five worst countries in the world for women.” It made me sick, sick, sick. But the men (and women) who abuse women in unthinkable ways believe this is their right. It’s horrifying just how primitive humans really are, and what is accepted under the facade of freedom.

    • I believe my background as it relates to the immediate family on my mother’s side, is similar to Bill’s. ‘Rough and Tumble’ is an apt way of sizing them up. Am still at times ‘R&T’ myself. And it was my mother too, who instilled in me to be tolerant, to be respectful, to be polite,….CROSBY, STILLS, & NASH had it in ‘Teach Your Children’.

      • I don’t mind R&T and have gotten used to no zoning laws, etc. People can fill their acre with whatever they want if it’s the accepted norm of the neighborhood…but it all falls apart if that acre is filled with kitchen garbage, pregnant dogs, or 25 of their buddies doing god knows what. Maybe I need a louder fan.

        There are some great kids here too, who don’t have computers or phones and ride their bikes around the neighborhood. They see everything. I have befriended some of them and pay them to do easy odd jobs, and they are so happy. My urchins, I call them. Tough little girls with big hearts and someone at home who is doing a great job!

  6. Why does it bother me?

    I am really sorry to hear about the neighbours. I really feel for you. I do not have the patience to deal with people like that; that he didn’t keep his appointment speaks volumes for me. Idiot fool. The good news is those quad bikes have a really high fatality rate for the riders. I’m keeping my fingers crossed that one dire accident might put a stop to them.

    On a lighter note the pictures you have taken are gorgeous! And I especially love the frog one. We used to collect tadpoles and keep them in a little gallon pot, with rocks, and water and leaves until they grew into frogs and then we would release them into our back yard where we had a pond and some squashy damp frog friendly land! I loved doing that every year. My sister still collects everything with frogs on it!

    • Hi Mrs. Gary…I don’t have the patience either but I have few choices. Any areas in Gibraltar like this?

      Glad to hear you’re a frog lover too—are they not magical? During monsoon they appear in places usually very dry (like my yard) and it’s just amazing how they got there—and where they go when the rain stops. When you collected tadpoles, did they grow into different types of frogs? Fascinating—I would love to try that, if I had a pond!

      • Why does it bother me?

        In Gibraltar we have a few tiny pockets where trouble occurs, but to be fair it isn’t all that bad, we do however have a huge variety of idiot boy racer car drivers. You can walk around Gibraltar in its entirety in under two hours yet they fly about in the super turbo cars at 60mph with zero regard for noise, or others safety, and the moped drivers are even worse, they have the loudest exhaust pipes, they cut holes in them to make them louder and they rev them up at any time of day or night, and pretty much the whole peninsular is kept awake because they think this is ‘cool’.
        The frogs had slightly different markings, but on the whole all looked the same, they were so friendly! They’d sit on our hands for ages and used to swim about and I think they quite enjoyed the gallon pot life style! You could keep them until they change into frogs, you’d just have to have a container that had air holes and a lid to stop them getting out while they were being transported or kept indoors. We used cling film as the lid and popped holes into it, kept them in an airy room, with day light present, but not directly playing on them. I would definitely do it again, if it didn’t contravene our super strict tenancy agreement. No goldfish probably equals no frogs, I’ll wager… 

  7. This topic of treating women badly is the one that bothers me the most. Are men so impotent that they think they have to control the very source of their own life. God, this is the one thing that really makes me sick. It is completely beyond my understanding.

    • And if you witnessed a woman (or any physically weaker creature) being abused, it would bring out the justified aggression in you, I’ll bet, same as me.

    • I’ve often wondered if this is the reason for an abusive man’s hatred of women–that women have the ultimate control over new life, and these men just can’t accept that. And somehow they missed the memo granting them the (just as important) job of protecting their women and children (instead of abusing them).

      • I don’t know. It’s getting harder to think of abusive as a trait specific to a certain type of man when rape or violence is a daily fact of life in some parts of the world. We are so lucky to live in country where a woman has choices. The word ‘human’ sure doesn’t mean ‘humane’ does it.

  8. As for your neighbours, I really don’t have much to add, your post depicts them to the ‘T’. I could probably sketch a family portrait (in pencil of course) of them based on what you have mentioned and from encounters with similar ‘dynasties of freedom squatters’- whose anthem is normally, “my life is shitty, so yours should be too.” You did what any reasonable person would do when confronted and pushed. You cannot stoop, bend nor crawl at their level. This kind of ‘dynasty’ has a nasty habit of escalating the simplest situation into something it is not.

    Freedom, what a word that is. Probably the most misunderstood word of all time.

    Now I have to delve into the comments from others, seems this post garnered some interesting ones.

    • Hudson! Exactly. What does it even mean? If it’s something different to each person then how can it be an ideal we fight for? Not sure if what I did was reasonable (the cop sure didn’t think so) and I’m actually a little ashamed. Freedom squatters—good descriptive phrase. Yes these same folks are causing trouble right now in a neighborhood near you.

      I can’t help but make analogies to other cultures, for instance religious cultures, where they demand the right to lack freedom under the guise of freedom.

  9. The only way I’m ever able to cope with troglodytes is to say to myself, “At least I’m not like them.” It’s miserable enough to be the scum of the earth, but to be the scum of the earth and not know it? Even worse.

    I think a paddling dog is one of the cutest things EVER. Look at that face.

    • Hi Kay, if they don’t know it, is it possible they could be enjoying themselves? That at the end they could say, I had a great time, dang that was a fulfilling life?

      I can’t believe you said that about Jasmine’s face. I was going to write that into the caption but thought, everybody thinks that about their dog, why should mine be any cuter? But look at that face! Look at her little mask! I can hardly bear that she’s eleven. But yes, all paddling dog heads are adorable—such focus, such instinct! Afterwards, when they roll in the soft wet mud, not so much…

  10. Just wondering where you are and how you are doing and missing having your posts fill my mind with something thoughtful. Hope all is well and you are OK.

    • Oh sweetie thank you! I’m here, but often feel shame at my life of not doing lots of stuff. Your comment made me realize it doesn’t matter, and it made my day. I’m going to post again real soon.

  11. Ann Marie Sanderlin

    I think you are hilarious. Just discovered you because I was googling anything on mounted border patrol. I have a horse and am studying programs that give wild Mustangs jobs and most are with border patrol… very political subject (I know you are an animal lover too and let me tell you this wild horse debate has lots of sides and misinformation so don’t get me started because it is confusing). Anyway, this discussion hit home with me and my neighborhood. I am glad you haven’t been cowed by the bullying. Good for you.

    • Hi Ann Marie, nice to meet you. This is horse country down here but unfortunately many of them are underfed. But others, thank goodness, are pampered and beloved. We love the border patrol, they also use rescue dogs at the checkpoints—you can see right off they’re mutts. Highly trained mutts with noses a thousand times more sensitive than ours, and they know exactly what to look for—they can even sniff out large amounts of cash!

      The wild horse debate is not something I’ve been following because I get too emotionally overloaded with dealing with the local culture of disdain for spay/neuter of dogs and cats. Thanks so much for taking the time to write me a note. I’m always interested in knowing what folks are into.

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