Respecting Another’s Property

Surprised ForemanIt was a beautiful summer afternoon and I headed out back to play hoops. I was startled to see three men wearing electrical hard hats and using a big machine to cut a trench in our backyard. I moved quickly to the men and called out to the foreman. He signaled the shutdown of the machine and moved next to me.

“Can I help you with something, son?”

“You’re not supposed to be digging in our yard.”

The foreman glanced through papers on his clipboard and then looked me square in the eyes, “My work orders say we are to dig a trench from your back fence all the way down to your front street.”

I remembered a similar topic my mom and dad discussed after dinner earlier in the week. They had a request from the electrical company to cut a trench in our yard and lay electrical cables to the main line. This would allow electrical poles across the backyards to be replaced with underground wiring.

My parents wanted to sell the electric company a right-of-way for their cable. They also insisted on receiving additional money to pay for replacement sod and other landscaping to cover the ugly trench, but the electrical company suggested there were other ways to lay the cable without my parent’s permission.

“My parents didn’t give you permission to dig on our land,” I stated boldly. “You are trespassing and need to leave.”

The foreman signaled his workers to give us some space. They headed over to the back fence and waited. Then the foreman faced me straight on, “I have to get my work done and can’t stop because a minor’s comments don’t match my paperwork. Maybe you should double check with your dad when he gets home from work.”

The foreman grabbed my arm and pulled me away from the equipment. He signaled his men to continue. One of the men started up the equipment and lowered the cutting arm down into the trench. Dirt churned and spilled out of the trench as the machine slowly moved toward the house.

I broke the foreman’s grip from my arm and tried to step away, but he grabbed me again.

“I can’t have you getting too close to the equipment. We wouldn’t want you hurt.”

“I’m headed inside.”

I yanked my arm free and ran to the back steps. I shot up to the back porch using every third step and headed in doors. The three men continued to work and cut an additional twenty feet of trench, while I was inside.

My dad had just woken up, having worked the nightshift. He was in the middle of swishing mouthwash around when I poked my head in the bathroom and shared the dilemma.

My dad commented, “I’ll be out in a moment. Maybe you can get them to stop, while I’m getting ready.”

I bolted out of the room and headed downstairs with a purpose in my step. My feet swiftly cut across the carpet in the foyer, living room and dining room. I picked up my pace as my feet hit the kitchen, followed by my hands shoving the back door open.

The screen door banged against the house and then bounced closed. I grabbed both railings and slid down without touching a single step. Both of my feet hit the sidewalk simultaneously. I strutted out into the backyard.

The foreman saw my vigorous pace and signaled the workers to take a break. I moved next to him and spoke with authority.

“My dad says that you are not to be digging in our yard and need to leave.”

“You called your dad at work?” he asked. “How long until he gets home?”

The look on the man’s face told me that he would continue digging with hopes of finishing before my dad showed up, but before I could tell him that my dad was home, the back door opened.

I was a little embarrassed by the sight of my dad standing on the back porch in a robe and slippers. His stark white legs glowed as he walked across the backyard. One of the men nudged the other and chuckled. The foreman moved over to chat with my dad a few steps away from everyone else. It didn’t take long for the conversation to get heated and loud enough for all of us to hear.

“I don’t care what your orders say, get off of my property.”

“The only way I’m sending my team home is if the police show up and tell us to leave.

A sudden calm came over my dad’s face. He turned around and headed back into the house.

“Guys, let’s get digging,” the foreman shouted. “If he’s calling the cops, we’ve got to get the trench dug before they show up.”

The machine was started and the arm ripped deep into the trench. Within seconds the machine was tearing up more ground and headed toward the front street. I watched the foreman look glibly at me, as if my family had been defeated. I wondered why my dad walked away.

Suddenly the foreman’s mouth dropped open wide. He quickly signaled the workers to kill the machine and join him. They all turned pale as they watched my dad, now in his police uniform, walk toward them. The foreman noticed his sergeant stripes and looked like he was about to pee in his pants.

My dad stood tall before the three men, “I am ordering you and your men to stop working. You have exactly 20 minutes to remove all your equipment from this premises or you will be arrested for trespassing and for disobeying a police officer’s instructions.”

The men immediately broke down their equipment and made it ready for transport. The foreman sheepishly stepped up to my dad and tried to suggest there was a mistake in his records and would see to it they were fixed. My dad paid little attention to him and headed into the garage.

When dad pulled out of the driveway the foreman turned to me and asked, “Hey kid, where’s your dad going?”

“To pick up his police car so he can come back and arrest you.”

“That won’t be necessary. We’ll be gone in just a few minutes.”

I grabbed my basketball and shot layups, while glancing every so often to see their progress. They were gone within fifteen minutes with no desire to return. My dad did his part to make sure they didn’t return by having police cars patrol the area a couple times every hour until he came home for supper.

The next day the foreman’s supervisor sat down in the living room with my dad and apologized on behalf of the company. The workers never returned and my family was compensated so we could repair the landscaping.

Copyright © 2013 by CJ Powers
Photo © kennykiernan –