Sunday, August 16, 2009

Obeying the law

Our family cabin is located on an island off the Colorado River, about 12 miles up from the Gulf of Mexico. There are 15 houses, 15 homeowners. Fifteen views of how things should be operated and managed. There is a homeowner’s association, a board, and a set of bylaws written over 30 years ago with paragraphs this and sections that. The bylaws are there to keep order, written from a sensible standpoint that some rules are necessary in order to keep a common good. In accordance with these bylaws, there are elections and meetings and voting. And this is true because sometimes issues will arise that need to be considered and decided democratically, for the greater and long-term good of the island. There is the majority of homeowners, to which I belong, that are sensible and fair, and then there is the this-is-good-for-me-and-I-don’t-care-about-you minority with occasional and amusing plots for an uprising, a coup to overthrow the elected leadership and take over the island. I can see you, I can see you rolling your eyes. Because, EXACTLY. This is not a developing nation, it’s an island of 15 secondary homes where 15 families spend vacations and weekends, where 15 families presumably go to get away from the city, to relax and enjoy the river and the outdoors, in peace.

I have a friend who when she reads this is right here going to say out loud, YOU PEOPLE.

Seriously, who plots to overthrow a board made up of nine elected people on an island of 15?

A while ago, there was an incident regarding a child and a dog, actually several dogs. And a single bone. And grandparents who are homeowners who were guests in another homeowner’s house, grandparents who were watching their grandson while his parents were out of town, but unclear as to who between the two was actually in charge of watching the grandson. It was a party; there was alcohol involved. While everyone was upstairs, and the grandparents were not paying attention, that child wandered downstairs where the dogs were, and the details of what happened next will never be known as fact since NO ONE SAW WHAT HAPPENED but according to the boy, he tried to take a bone from one of the dogs to give it to another dog. Have you ever been around a group of dogs and tried to take something of the meat variety from one and give it to another? It usually doesn’t work out in anyone’s favor.

The boy was four at the time, just a bit taller than the dogs but very much on the same level, meaning that he got caught in the meaty bone mayhem and was bitten. On his face. It was a bad bite. There was a lot of blood. There was screaming. The grandparents blamed each other, pointing fingers and yelling things at each other like, I thought YOU were [F-bomb explitive removed] watching him. There was a trip to the hospital and there were stitches. The boy bears a scar and, understandably, harbors a fear of dogs.

Though a couple other dogs were there, from what has been pieced together but not known to be fact, it was the homeowner’s dog that bit the child. The same homeowner who invited people into his home for a party, the homeowner who had his dogs and the other dogs contained downstairs on the screened-in porch while his guests were upstairs inside the house.

The very next day, a thin line began to show on the surface of the island. A dividing line of opinion as to who was responsible for the incident and what should be done about it. In no time at all, the line became a crack and the crack grew and with it the distance between sides, one being realistic and compassionate and of the feeling that it was a very unfortunate accident, and the other being THAT DOG NEEDS TO BE PUT DOWN, and THOSE PEOPLE NEED TO SELL THEIR HOUSE and I’M GONNA SHOOT THAT DOG IF I SEE IT, and did you know that 12 miles up the Colorado River from the Gulf of Mexico there is a small island with a great divide like the Grand Canyon?

Of course there was a law suit, because who wants to take responsibility when you can blame someone else for something that happened to your grandson when you weren’t watching him? The lawsuit was settled out of court because what attorney is going to put all those witnesses under oath to testify that his clients were not watching their grandson, or that there was a lot of drinking that night? The lawsuit was also settled because the host of that fateful evening felt like hell for what happened to that boy.

There were several homeowners’ meetings, meetings across THE BIG DIVIDE. Someone dusted off the bylaws and discovered that there was a rule that all dogs must be on a leash when not on the homeowner’s property. Emails were sent to all homeowners, emails that quoted section this and paragraph that and reminded everyone to keep their dogs on a leash or else the apocalypse will be triggered and all dog owners with unleashed dogs on the island of 15 houses were surely going to be the first in hell.

Freely roaming across this island on any given day are cattle, deer, raccoons and armadillos, not to mention alligators, coyotes, bobcats and wild pigs. WILD PIGS! But not dogs, not anymore.

I’m going to point out the painfully obvious because apparently it’s not as painfully obvious to some as it is to me. The leash law that was discovered in the bylaws and thumped with rabid justification, would have done squat to avoid the accident that started the line that began a crack that became the BIG DIVIDE between 15 homeowners on a little island in South Texas. The dog in question was off leash on the homeowner’s property. COMPLETELY IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE LAW. That is a FACT.

There are other laws in the island bylaws. There are laws about firing guns on your property, and on the common property. There are laws about gas-powered vehicles on the island. There are laws about cutting down trees. There are laws about building up your property and changing the common slope lines. Then there are minor bylaws that are outdated or forgotten until someone does something that someone else doesn’t like and then suddenly there is a meeting and hello it says right here that YOU CAN’T DO THAT. Except the majority of homeowners here are a peaceful lot and willing to let some things slide since we all would like to get along and most of us own gas-powered golf carts that we drive around the island, and there’s a difference between a minor infringement and having your neighbor cut down trees on your property, a difference between personal preference and the greater good for the island. The word compromise comes to mind here.

It goes without saying but I’m going to say it anyway: Those who do this bylaw search and discovery are of the I’M GOING TO SHOOT THAT DOG mentality. They do so with a chainsaw in one hand and a gun in the other, furiously ignorant to their own hypocrisy. Because not being allowed to chop down your neighbor’s trees or to shoot guns at night towards the interior of the island, or shoot game off season from your back porch, well what crazy person wrote those laws? But if your dog bites my kid when I’m at your house and not watching my kid, well then we need a law to keep all dogs on the leash when they are away from your property. That makes complete sense. Absolutely, that will make a difference.



Life at Star's Rest said...

Oh my. So much drama. I hate that the world has come to a place where law suits are the answer to everything instead of common sense and accountability. What a bunch of 'fill in the blank'.

BTW, I *adore* the photo of Ms Cool in the sidebar! Like she would ever need a leash.


susan said...

No one tells a story like you. Especially the non-fiction/ autobiographical type. I hope the voice of reason (yours) eventually seeps into the GREAT DIVIDE, and fills it in!

Ylva said...

I'm so sad to hear that the dog is the one caught in the middle.

ghost said...

good grief. people suck.

CreekHiker said...

This is the kind of crap that makes me wish I had a few hundred acres with a house in the middle and big fences all around.

Life at Star's Rest said...

I didn't receive an email...odd. Try Thank you for thinking of me. Carmon