Best NEIGHbors in the World

Good Fences? Who are your neighbors? Are you friends with them, barely say hi, or avoid them altogether? Tell us a story — real or invented — about the people on the other side of your wall (or street, or farm, or… you get the point). 

I love my neighbors. They are like family to me. There are three kids between 9 and 4 and two parents. Mexicans. The dad is a real cowboy. There are two little girls and a little boy, the youngest. They are a constant source of wonder. My love for them is returned. It took a little time to overcome the suspicion and reserve of the grownups. The mom doesn’t speak English and the dad has worked FOR whites all his life. At first he called me “Ma’am.” No more. But from the very beginning — well, kids and animals just like me.

I don’t even think grandparents see what I’ve seen just watching these kids. If I were attached to them, and had an expected and formalized relationship, I think it would be different. To show you what I mean completely, this post would end up very, very long, so just one amazing vignette.

Last week they got a horse. I’m not sure that the parents’ relationship was improved by the arrival of the horse, but the kids wanted a horse, it was free, there’s room for him, godnose the dad is great at handling horses, so here he is. I fell in love with him at first sight. He’s smart, gentle, friendly and really likes kids (and, of course, me). Later on that first day I went outside to get the mail and Andy, the little boy, was handing bits of hay to his horse.

“This is my horse, Martha!” AL

“I know, Andy, you are a really lucky kid. He’s beautiful. I love him.”

“Thank you.”

Andy then climbed to the top rail of the pen and leaned forward to wrap his arms around the horse. This boy has no fear of anything. This might be genetic. His dad was riding bulls when he was 7 years old. Later on the girls came home from school, and I got an excited phone call from Gabby, the oldest, “You gotta’ see our horse! Mom says you have a name for it!”

I did. I had named it Splash because of the white on his shoulder. The name didn’t stick. The kids named him “Brownie.”

“I’ll come outside.”

I found all three hanging on this horse, loving it and getting to know it. The horse was in, uh, Horse Heaven.

Every day since Splash/Brownie arrived, I’ve given him a carrot or two.  I feel happy when I come home from a long day and the horse paws the ground and whinnies, glad to see me.

Day before yesterday, when I headed out the door to school, Andy was hanging out with his horse. “Martha! Martha!”

“Morning, cowboy!”

“But I don’t have my hat on!”

“You’re still a cowboy.”

“Come here!”

I was late, but a person has to have priorities, and a little guy climbing on a fence to love his horse is more to me than going to work. I went to the pen and reached up to give Brownie/Splash a pat on the nose.

“I love him, Andy. He’s the best horse ever.”

“I know.”

“I gotta’ go to school. Hug the horse for me!” Andy climbed higher and wrapped his arms around what is now (after some days of rain) a dirty horse. The horse rested his nose on Andy’s little shoulder. Then Andy climbed over to my 6 foot fence with his arms outstretched to ME. He’s at that age where one minute he wants to hug and kiss the females in his life, and the next the whole thing disgusts him. I’d caught him in a hugging and kissing moment, so I went back and hugged him goodbye.

“Now get off that fence, Andy. See you later alligator.”

“After a while (incoherent syllables rhyming with ‘while’).”