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Howdy, neighbor!

MY WIFE AND I were never what you'd call gregarious. Oh, we'd wave at the neighbors now and then after we built this log home in the country, but mostly, we kept our own company. Then Mr. Tally moved in up the lane.

"He's a detective," my wife told me the day after the "Sold" sign went up. I was in the kitchen breasting doves. "A big guy--really big. Looks kind of grouchy. He moved here from D.C. for a new position."

"How do you know so much already?" I asked. "He didn't get all that on a bumper sticker, did he?"

"It's my job," Lacey smiled. "I also know you should be making his acquaintance."

"Why's that?"

"That big whitetail you've been trying to pattern," Lacey said. "He's taken up residence on Tally's property. I've seen him there every morning this week."

"Lacey," I exclaimed, "why didn't you tell me this sooner?"

Lacey opened the dishwasher and peered inside, fanning away the steam with her hand. "You were having way too much fun hiking around up on that other hill," she said. "I figured it would mean more to you if you made the discovery yourself. Why don't you walk up there and take our new neighbor some of those dove breasts?"

As I mentioned, I'm not overly gregarious, but that buck was a monster. An hour later I was carrying the dove offering up the hill in a bowl, rehearsing a snappy, neighborly greeting. Oblivious to the looming presence of Mr. Salvadore Tally on his front porch, his booming "Yeah?" shook me to my shoes and made me drop the doves in the gravel.

"Sally?" I croaked. "Are you Sally?" It didn't seem right, but neither did gathering gritty dove breasts from a stranger's driveway.

"It's Tally," he growled, a sound like rocks coming down a metal playground slide. "And you are ... "

"Liere," I mumbled, my voice rising in embarrassment. "I was wondering ... " I peered sadly into the dirty mass of bird flesh, then into his enormous, scowling face. I shook my head and retreated silently. Tally was an intimidating man.

"I don't know what got into me, Lacey," I told my wife a short time later. "I felt like a little kid in front of the principal."

"Forget it, dear," she said. "Maybe you can try again later. Are you still planning on dropping that big snag at the edge of the property? That's practically in Tally's back yard. Maybe you can introduce yourself then."

An hour later, the big, double-topped bull pine was lying across Mr. Tally's driveway. This in itself was bad enough, but Mr. Tally was in the garage in his car, preparing to leave. He was, it seems, on his way to his first day on the new job, and it was 20 minutes before I could get the tree into small enough chunks to move.

Lacey and I spent the rest of the afternoon cutting up the pine and hauling the rounds down to our wood shed. The next day we hauled the slash to a central burn pile, and she went to the house to make a pie and then clean up. Forty minutes later, a vicious wind raced a thunderhead out of the south, hitting the flaming debris like a giant fist, flinging pine cones and embers into the weeds five feet on the other side of my fire break. A second gust pushed the embers into a line of flames that swallowed up brittle tinder as it raced along the ground toward Mr. Tally's property.

Hearing the wind, Lacey stepped outside to make sure everything was OK. Deciding it wasn't, she slipped into a pair of the boots on the porch, grabbed a shovel and came running. I was so happy to see her, I didn't even comment on the fact she was obviously just a few minutes out of the shower and, other than my boots, was wearing but two basic undergarments. Hearing our shouts, Mr. Tally came bounding from his yard with a shovel, adding his own distinctive voice to the general ruckus.

Working side by side with little but grunts and oaths in the way of communication, Lacey, Mr. Tally and I made a fire line. For a half-hour, we shoveled, stomped, lunged and swatted. And then, we were victorious. Twenty feet apart, we leaned on our implements, panting heavily. Finally, Lacey looked at Mr. Tally across a smoldering stump and gave him a brief, half-wave. "Howdy, neighbor," she said thickly through her cottonmouth.

Mr. Tally was expressionless. Though we had spent 30 minutes in close proximity, he was seeing my wife for the first time. Her undergarments were smudged a blotchy gray, and when she moved, my oversize hunting boots flopped like clown shoes on her narrow feet. Her singed hair stuck out in every direction.

Mr. Tally looked at Lacey, then slowly turned his head and looked at me. "You do this for fun?" he asked.

"Only occasionally," I replied, seeing an opening. "I spend a lot of time hunting."

"For disasters, no doubt," he said, pointing down where smoke was pouring through the open door of our house.

We all bolted at the same time--Lacey because her pie was burning, I because I sensed an emergency and Mr. Tally because I hooked his suspenders with the rake as I tore past.

A month has gone by now, and I still haven't asked Tally for permission to hunt his property. Lacey says I should try again to make contact, but I suspect he's a hunter himself. In any event, we're not seeing the deer anymore, and Mr. Tally doesn't seem at all inclined to get to know us better.
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Title Annotation:Rear View
Author:Liere, Alan
Publication:Petersen's Hunting
Article Type:Column
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Apr 1, 2010
Words:956
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