Proctor: an official charged with various duties, esp. with the maintenance of good order..
Three hundred odd fortnights ago, my neighbor planted a baby Palo Verde ten feet from my driveway.
Today, a mighty tree extends twelve feet over that driveway, droops like a willow, and drops blooms like a Rocky Mountain snowstorm.
And those drooping branches have a bonus – thorns!
Plus, they're wispy and hard to see in the dark – like stalactites at Carlsbad. I've had to take the scenic route when wheeling trash to the curb.
Mike's magnificent monument has also kept me from doing maintenance on my two foot tall red yucca. It now extends three centimeters, give or take a millimeter, into his yard. Interestingly, he regards my plant and his PLANT to be equally intrusive. I know because he told me so. He's also the one who refers to his tree a "plant," I guess the way a lion is a cat.
And I'm starting to think of Mike as a plant, if you get my drift.
If a stranger came up my drive and a branch gently raked across his eyeball, it wouldn't be just Mike who got sued. And it could happen: I decided to run the gauntlet one cold garbage eve and as a thorny sprig caressed my face, I swear I heard a voice say, "Mike sends his regards."
But that problem didn't even exist last April when I first approached Mike about the lovely yellow flowers that had become delightful mounds of debris in my driveway… a gazillion six inch high, four foot wide piles by actual count. Anyone parking there overnight would have to dig out in the morning… once he located his vehicle…
Phoenix doesn't have snowblowers.
It was two weeks into debris season, and Mike had shown no inclination to clean up the mess or prune anything. Though he appeared disinterested, he did ask in passing what I thought were the offending branches.
I pointed out just one.
You might wonder how one branch might solve the immediate problem, but you'll thank me shortly when you see what happens as Mike tries to address multiple branches.
There's a four foot tall trunk and three main limbs. Two were no current concern, but the third heads right for my yard and droopers pour off like it's Niagara Falls, though the Falls isn't as hazardous. Visualize yourself with a third arm coming out of your throat. Who needs that?
Mike never pruned much, only what he later described as those "about seven feed above your property." They grew back in abundance, and amazingly, the tree had the audacity to keep expanding.
Now with Christmas approaching, my wife and I figured, how better to spend her vacation than doing Mike's job for him? I figured that if he agreed to perform regular maintenance thereafter, we'd both be better off. Sometimes people have the best of intentions, but circumstances – bad health, family crises, chronic hangnails can keep one from honoring commitments, so why not do a good turn, no questions asked, no explanations required?
You know how no good deed goes unpunished? I learned that even the offer of a good deed can summon punishment.
Mike used it as a starting point in negotiations, eventually giving directions as if to his gardener:
"I think it would be OK to cut off the three of four branches that grow off of the main branch that shoot out directly over your driveway. Please leave the main branch that continues to grow up towards the sky. If you wish, you can remove the branch that grows from the branch in front of your branch that crosses over towards your property. That will help also."
"Huh," you ask? But did you like that "will help" bit?
Mike wasn't concerned about what causes a nuisance, hazard, work, concern or all of the above for me. He basically said he planted a tree and where it would grows he could not be responsible, so the problem was mine (Don't believe me? The complete email exchange is available on request).
I explained to Mike that his approach would not solve anything and would require more frequent attention. Pruning the limb at the trunk would eliminate that.
Nothing doing. Since I wasn't taking directions well, "you have my permission to prune the branches of trees on your side of the property."
Nerve or ignorance, you make the call.
Mike added that he would do some additional pruning "when I have more time." Considering he hadn't had "more time" in nine months and wouldn't be addressing this now had I not inflicted it on him, "when I have more time" was really a euphemism for – NEVER!
I know I'm exaggerating, Mike will probably continue the maintenance schedule that got us where we are now.
And I calculate the tree will completely envelop my house in 2.7 years.
And one day I'll find Mike pruning droopers at my front door, you know, when he has more time.
But to make a long story longer, I gave Mike a deadline – remove all problem branches or face legal remedies. Do you think hanging a banner on the tree that reads, "Hi, I'm Mike Pxxxxxx, honk if you like the nuisance I've created" is a good way to start?
By the way, Mike did have time to put up Christmas lights. Doesn't he realize that if justice prevails, it could be Palo's no longer verde?!?
Unless you think Mike was being conciliatory when he wrote:
"I have far too much activity in my life to be concerned that you are not pleased with a plant."
A twenty foot tall, thirty foot wide – – – plant.
Although that was an hour ago. Its your guess how big it is now. I can tell you that when you stand out there and it's quiet and still, you can actually hear the… um… plant growing – like "The Blob."
Mike did say he'd would consult an arborist about something, again when he has more time, like maybe on Arbor Day?. Anyway, that prompted my wife to ask: "Wasn't the time to consult an arborist when he thought it was a great idea to plant a forty foot tree in a ten foot space?"
Chapter Two preview: Mike apparently misses my directive, but not his mind…