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  • jrblackburnsmith


Image: My bookshelf which is not in my backyard

I'm not a big believer in the Not In My Backyard movement, but sometimes you have to put your foot down. For context, my wife, Denise, is a social worker whose career has been dedicated to helping folks, often marginalized, find their way safely and successfully in their communities. Sometimes that means creating congregate settings where people can immerse themselves in their community over time. We stand against fear-based NIMBY arguments decrying rehab facilities or early release from prison halfway houses, or the dreaded 'group home' for folks with developmental disabilities. These important services benefit all of us, so should be able to exist in any community.

(Writer's Note: Sometimes, as a writer, one must make a decision about whether or not the writer needs to self-disclose an important aspect of their life that may influence the way the reader engages with the material. I choose not to.)

(Writer's Note 2: That's probably not fair. Not too long ago, I testified at a township zoning hearing, along with many of my neighbors, against letting a plot of farmland be sold as two tracts of land for residential development. Our stated concern was real: the proposed location of the drive for one of the plots was in the blind spot on a hill and dangerous, but, also, none of us wanted 2 more homes built nearby. I, at least, admitted this in my testimony.)

My backyard gets a lot of traffic already. We have deer (that have killed several of my trees by stripping bark from then in the winter) that like to frolic in the half-light of early morning or dusk. It's the fawns that frolic; the adults graze or watch out for our dogs. We have coyotes, who generally leave things alone, but can be useful when a deer gets hit by a car. We have had a few who manage to stagger into our yard before collapsing from their injuries. Give the coyotes a few days and the carcass can be totally cleaned up. (Note: carcass is another one of those good words we don't get use often enough when writing.) Because of the coyotes, however, we have a real dearth of rabbits, pheasants, possums, groundhogs and other assorted vermin. The raccoons seem to hold their own. We have toads and frogs and snakes that are more at risk from my lawn mower than the coyotes.

We have lots of hawks, songbirds, swallows, buzzards and the occasional heron and bald eagle. Ohio has seen a resurgence of bald eagles, and there is a nesting pair that live nearby. Whenever I see one flying by, I'm stopped in my tracks. They are truly majestic. Last summer, we had a juvenile bald eagle land in the yard with a squirrel. The eagle could not figure out how to fly holding the squirrel in its talons. It would jump, flapping its wings madly, moving a few yards forward before crashing back to the ground. In twenty minutes, the eagle travelled less than one hundred yards before deciding it was time to just eat the damn squirrel rather than carry it home. We officially welcome more bald eagles to our backyard.

All of which gets me to my NIMBY moment. Yesterday evening, while mowing, I look up and what do I see? Two black angus cattle out in the tall grass of my backyard. This is where I draw the line. Have you ever walked through a cow pasture? There is a reason cattle farmers wear heavy rubber boots even when it is not raining.

This was also a mystery. None of my nearby neighbors raise cattle. Luckily, a farmer with a 5-gallon bucket of feed was standing close by, gently luring them away. While I don't want his cattle in my backyard, I did feel some compassion. Cattle are not the smartest creatures in the world, and luring a pair of them home with a bucket of feed can be an all-night endeavor. And the minute they left my yard, rather than following the feed bucket, they took off into a patch of woods just for the fun of it. For all I know, they're still out there, in the woods, resisting arrest.

Love: a story of grief and desire is now available as an audiobook! Available on amazon, and wherever audiobooks are sold.

Win a free Kindle edition of Love: a novel of grief and desire: I work with Reader's Favorite on the Kindle book giveaway. If you go to you can sign up for the monthly giveaway. You can scroll through the list of giveaways (over 500 each month) or sort the list by title or author to find Love: a novel of grief and desire and put your name in for this month's drawing. Good luck!

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