Never Met a Stranger: Neighbors


By T.W.Burger

Like anybody else who has neighbors, they can sometimes seem like a mixed blessing, especially when it comes to political topics.

A confirmed liberal, most of whose life has been spent doing blue-collar work, I am pro-union, pro-choice, and not fond of the ruling elite.

There have been quite a few heated exchanges between me and some of my neighbors over COVID, vaccines, the passions of some for the AR-15, and the qualities, or lack of them, of a recent past POTUS.

Make no mistake; this never disintegrated into shouting, fisticuffs, or gunfire, but we participants occasionally got grumpy.

And then the storm hit.

Early reports claimed it was a tornado, but I do not think so. I have been through tornadoes, and the famous “freight train” sound was missing.

I was lying on the sofa, recovering from foot surgery, and gazing absentmindedly out a window when the light dimmed, and the wind launched a full assault.

It only lasted about ten minutes, if that.

Trees danced as though trying to escape. Wind howled; rain came in sheets that blocked the view of the trees across the creek. Hail drummed, turning the windows and roof into a tom-tom.

Something thudded on the kitchen roof. The cabinets popped open, sending a water glass plummeting to its doom.

Immediately after, a branch from the large oak tree on the south side of the house plunged through the roof in two places and shattered a window, shaking the house and sending the cats into another dimension for about an hour.

And then it was over. Still as a tomb.

Neighbors bearing chainsaws and ladders began patrolling the street, helping, and patching what they could.

Others had worse damage. Sean lost half the new roof that installed only a week earlier, and a massive triple oak tree. Jamie’s bathroom smashed. Tina’s treasured special-order Toyota RAV4 squashed like a bug. Trees and tree debris, electric wires and tv cable lay everywhere.

I called my insurance company, discovered that I could not inspect anything outside the house because of the debris and crutches, and settled down in the sweltering house to await developments.

A metallic scraping on the deck. Thuds on the roof. The snarl of a chainsaw.

I thumped over to the kitchen door. My nearest neighbors had dragged a ladder over to my deck. They padded around on the roof, surgically removing part of the giant limb, peeling away shredded shingles.

After about an hour, the bulk of the huge branch still sprawled on the garden and deck, but the two holes in the roof showed temporary shingle patches, and a plastic sheet rippled, tacked over the broken window.

Two of the helpers had been kayaking on the creek when the storm hit and came ashore to help.

I tried to thank everybody. Most just shrugged. Jamie said: "It's what we do."


Fast forward. The tree is still there, awaiting the arrival of a contractor who specializes in disassembling errant trees. The insurance adjuster should arrive soon, too. The power came back on after about a day, and the internet about a day lat

By this time next year, with luck, it will almost seem as though it did not happen.

But the sight of all my neighborhood friends clambering over my wounded house without me even asking…that will be with me as long as I draw breath.

Thank you, Jamie, Katie, Sean, and all the rest.


T.W. Burger was raised in Athens. He graduated from Athens High School in 1967. He workedas a driver of everything from fork trucks to garbage trucks and concrete mixers, has been an apprentice mortician and ambulance attendant.

He has been a newspaper reporter since 1985, mostly in Gettysburg, PA, with various stints at other publications. Semi-retired, he is still working as a freelance writer and lives on the banks of Marsh Creek just outside of Gettysburg.


He is the author of "The Year of the Moon Goose."



171 views1 comment