Forget that fences make good neighbors.
Respect is the key.
Three months ago there were visitors in the neighborhood.
No problem. I'm not one of those people who have a heart attack if you park in front of my house. It's why they call it a public street. I also don't mind loud kids at play even though my sleeping hours are anything but normal.
What I won't tolerate are people who believe there is no problem with coming into my yard to take and do what they want.
The first encounter with this one particular family was noon on a Saturday. A mom and her young daughter were talking fairly loud on the sidewalk in front of my home. I wouldn't have given it a second thought but the voices kept getting louder and closer to the window.
I went outside and there was mom and daughter clipping my roses, ferns and golden poppies to make a bouquet.
I asked what they were doing.
"Just picking flowers," was the mom's reply. "They're so pretty."
I admit I was a bit stunned by her answer.
Then, before I could reply, she added that "it's a shame to see them go to waste."
I said they weren't going to waste and that I liked looking at them in my front yard.
"That's nice," she added.
The mother said they were just visiting and that they'd be through in a second.
I replied in a fairly civil tone that "you're through now."
She looked at me, gave me a "who-the-hell-do-you-think-you-are" look and left.
I had one more encounter with the family a few days later when I caught their pre-teen son trying to scale my backyard fence so he could play with my Dalmatians. In a less than civil conversation (I remember saying "what the hell do you think you're doing") the kid informed me he climbed fences to play with his neighbors' dogs all the time back home and that it was OK.
I told him it wasn't OK and as I was escorting him out of the yard I told him he could have been casing my house for all I knew. He didn't understand what I meant just as he didn't understand the concept of private property.
To be honest if the woman and her daughter had knocked on my door and asked to cut some roses and ferns I would have said "yes" although the poppies would be off limits.
When I lived on Pine Street we had 180 rose bushes split evenly between the front and backyards. More than a few people were helping themselves to roses without asking. One day a teen boy of about 16 knocked on my door and asked if he could pick some roses for his girlfriend. Because he asked, I not only got my clippers to help him so they'd be cut right but I also rustled up a vase to give him.
Not only did he ask but it also avoided someone who had no business cutting my roses doing it the wrong way and reducing repeat blooms.
The bottom line, though, is taking something without asking is stealing. And going onto private property without permission is called trespassing.
And it doesn't matter if you are taking something that you believe is inconsequential or crossing onto property that you think is no big deal.
Twenty years ago a friend's niece was visiting Manteca from Florida. She had brought her racing bicycle along and wanted to go for a ride to see the countryside. We went on an 80-mile loop that took in the area east of Manteca all the way to Farmington, down to Knights Ferry and then the Oakdale-Escalon area.
On the way back she wanted to stop on River Road as we neared Carrolton Road. She set her bicycle against a tree on the edge of an orchard and proceeded to pick an apple.
I asked her what she was doing.
She said the obvious in that she was picking an apple.
I said she wasn't picking an apple - she was stealing.
She gave me a quizzical look. (Did I mention she was a deputy sheriff in Dade County?)
I asked her if she'd like people walking into her yard and helping themselves to flowers she was growing. She said no.
I said the apple trees just didn't happen to grow there. A farmer put in a lot of time, money and effort into them. They were his property and his livelihood. It is how he fed his family.
She said she never looked at it that way before and said someone stealing her flowers would make her mad. She then proceeded to polish off the apple.
If you don't want people taking stuff from you or freely roaming on your property then you shouldn't do the same thing to others.
The world does need more fences. It needs more respect.
This column is the opinion of Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Courier or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.