Wednesday, August 30, 2006

My Neighbors: Moving In

Looking over yesterday's post, I realized that some background information is in order. Clearly, you need to know about my neighbors.

Having lived in Southwest Virginia since the early 1990's, I have grown used to the prejudice of my family and friends who live up North. I'm sure you can imagine the kinds of comments I get about my...idyllic...pastoral...genteel region. With that in mind, I'm loath to talk about my neighbors, as they exemplify the kind of knuckle-dragging, banjo-player-on-the-porch, inbred stereotypes that already plague rural areas. Still, my interactions with the folks next door have gone a long way towards developing my current dislike of humanity, and are vital for any further discussion.

That having been said, I promise that everything I write on this subject will be absolutely true, with a minimum of editorializing.

My first interactions with my neighbors came after I had lived in my house for a few months. This was my fault, as I began to fear them almost as soon as I moved in. First off, they were Linkouses. In the New River Valley, where I live, a few local families have managed to make the transition from mountain living to relatively modern life. In the case of the Linkouses, they seem to have survived through a combination of huge land holdings and an extended clan that is roughly the size of Italy. Around here, one is rarely more than a few hundred yards from a Linkous, the grave of a Linkous, or an edifice named after a Linkous. As far as I can tell, the Linkii (as I like to call them) have managed to persevere through sheer size and entrenchment.

In my neighborhood, the Linkouses seem to make a living by selling land from time to time and making hay in their fields. My next-door neighbors (who I didn't realize were Linkouses until I'd lived here for a few months) used to own the house I live in, but chose to sell it and move into a prefab trailer home on a quarter-acre lot with their two children. On the day that I moved in, I got my first glimpse of the young Linkous, James. James was, I shit you not, walking up the front path of his house, carrying a dead opossum and yelling "Hey, Ma! Look what I kilt!"

This brings up my first problem with the Linkii. The noise. While I'm sure that James and the rest of his family are capable of expressing themselves quietly, I have never actually seen them do so. Whatever they do--be it talking, arguing, recreating, or even relaxing, they do it loudly. Later on during move-in day, I heard the loud booming of what I later came to recognize as a high-powered rifle. Rushing upstairs, I asked my girlfriend what it was. She told me that my neighbor was shooting across the rural highway situated about fifty yards from the front of his house. To this day, I have never ascertained what he was shooting at or why he felt the need to play Charles Whitman. I guess that I just have to accept this as one of those weird things that make life interesting.

The same goes for their decision the following week to shoot skeet in their backyard. It's worth reiterating here that their yard is only about a quarter-acre large. This means that the backdrop for their skeet shooting was the road that runs behind our houses and the cow pasture on the other side of the road. On the day they shot skeet, I got my first inkling of what would later become a very common feeling. I was simultaneously annoyed at their lack of consideration, terrified by their total stupidity, and ashamed at the fact that I was becoming a kill joy.

This feeling returns every July, as I am repeatedly awakened from sleep by the sounds of gunfire, explosions, and whistles. It's like a cross between a Latin American wedding and the WWII shelling of London. However, while their patriotic pyromania is a particularly galling outpouring of their need for sound, it is hardly the only example. Every day, Linkous, pater and fils, will station themselves a few feet apart and yell a conversation back and forth across the lawn. I'm sure there's a reason that they can't walk a little closer to each other, but I can't imagine what it is. Listening to them declaiming their respective monologues, I am reminded of some particularly bad Swedish existentialist plays I saw when I was an undergraduate in college.

Anyway, enough ranting. More later.


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