Friday, February 16, 2007

I'll show you a hundred feet, you land-grabbing pigs

White Pine is a railroad town. It came into existence very much by accident, when the railroad built tracks through what is now Main Street-an area that was already part of an established stagecoach route. Before the tracks were built, the area was even more sparsely populated than it is today, mostly by people (or their decendants) who had run from fighting during the War Between the States in the valley just to the west-the fact that the coach ran through made a boarding house or a restaurant or two pop up here and there, but nothing to indicate that many lived here (and many did not). When the railroad came, the stagecoach route and the rail line intersected. Hungry and tired engineers, conductors, and in those days passengers, needed a place to eat, sleep, or relax. Some, no doubt, would take the coach as far as White Pine to catch the train at the small depot the railroad constructed here. The town came into being when the people who lived at "the crossroads" asked the federal government for a post office and were forced to give the place a name.

Because the Town of White Pine exists in part because of the railroad, folks here have traditionally had a good relationship with "railroad people." Your neighbor or friend might work for them. Even though I am still relatively new in town, you have to get along with the railroad when it runs right through your back yard and your dog howls at the train whistle. Yesterday, the Norfolk and Southern Railroad severely tested the good relationship between White Pine and the railroad.

About 3:30pm yesterday, I heard my dog barking loudly and the sound of chainsaws. Daisy barking is nothing new-she's part beagle and part husky and she barks at anything she thinks is a boogar. This was not, however, a "I'm going to scare away the boogar Daddy!" bark-it was a "let me at 'em, I am going to kill them" bark. You don't hear that often out of Daisy, but you know the sound. Then Nicole comes through the door and says "does Cathy [our neighbor] know these men are cutting down her maple trees..."

I couldn't see Cathy and Vic's yard out of the window I was looking at, but I could see what looked like railroaders roping off a huge easement for themselves. Not ten minutes after Nicole questioned me about Cathy and Vic's trees, the doorbell rang and Nicole beat me to the door. A rather tall, bulky man then looked over Nicole's shoulder and pointed over her head and said "I need to talk to him."

Now my wife is not a woman to be talked over. Those of you who have met Nicole know that she is quiet and shy and tends to be withdrawn. People mistake this for a pushover attitude-trust me, it is not. We both have Irish and Gaelic blood running through our veins. My Irish is tempered with laid-back Bavarian. Her Irish is magnified with hot-tempered Cherokee. Cross her at your own peril. On top of that, my mother-in-law was present for this, and folks, I know not to make her angry...this idiot apparently forgot that Hell hath no fury like pissed off East Tennessee mountain women.

"You can talk to me just fine," Nicole said.

Big Bubba then proceeds to explain to my wife that the railroad has a hundred foot right-of-way through the area "but we're only taking 50, and these trees are being cut down because they obstruct the line of sight." Considering the location of the trees, there is no way they were obstructing any engineer's line of sight. A 50-foot right-of-way would give the railroad a good chunk of my back yard and my shop. A hundred foot claim would put the land-grabbing swine in my living room.

By this point Vic and Cathy arrived home to discover what had been done to their maple trees-critical summer shade since their house is poorly insulated. While my mother-in-law was dialing Norfolk Southern, Nicole was ordering the men what to do with what was now firewood. In addition to cutting down our neighbor's maple trees, the *explative meaning illegitimate sons* managed to ruin their dog run in the process.

Nicole beat me to finding the information about our deed, where it clearly states that the railroad has a 15-foot easement on to our land for the purposes of rail traffic. Cathy's deed said the same thing. Armed with this information, we were ready when the supervisor from Norfolk Southern called and he was informed that both deeds said that the railroad has a 15-foot easement, not 50 (and definately not 100). We also managed to get Bubba's name in case we have any trouble out of these people. The supervisor was stammering and stuttering in such a way as to lead one to believe that these people thought they had the right to run roughshod over people's private property. Mr. Supervisor had a rude lesson given to him in the Constitution of the United States and Tennessee real estate law.

Norfolk Southern has agreed to compensate our neighbors for their trees and has agreed not to come on our land or our neighbor's anymore without first obtaining permission. That can't really do justice for those trees, which were at least half as old as this town. I also don't trust them anymore not to try and claim some part of my land. They had better not try...I'll fight them in court, but I also have guns...they'll have to drag me away with a pistol in my hand.

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At Friday, February 16, 2007 1:34:00 PM, Blogger Bill said...

--laughing-- I'm so glad I know to stay on your good side, and that you're my friend.

At Friday, February 16, 2007 5:50:00 PM, Blogger TheRep said...

Good job!!!

Ya give them an inch........

At Saturday, February 17, 2007 9:01:00 AM, Blogger DigiHairshirt said...

Dave, bravo to you and your wife!

If the b*****ds try it again, I am sending out my secret weapon to you, which is my 78-year-old mother, the Belle of the Bronx. We'll get the news media to capture her riding up on her senior mobility scooter, only to stop in front of the bulldozers and dramatically announce that if they want those trees, it'll be over her dead body (they had better put it on time delay, since Dorothy can get a little salty at times). Believe it or not, she HAS done that before, when a park in our Bronx neighborhood was threatened.

As a future TN landowner, this is a good lesson - that deed will be sitting within reach of the front door!

At Saturday, February 17, 2007 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

Thanks everyone, for your comments and concern! As Nicole is keen to get the story straight, she reminded me that the phone conversation took place out of my earshot (the women ran outside) and that between she and my mother-in-law, they had the supervisor on the ropes before they even got to the deed info.

She says it didn't take much to get the guy to back down and apologize-but that can't replace those trees or the wrong that was done here Thursday.

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 6:48:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry dude, you and your wife loose! Have you ever heard of the phrase “emanate domain”? Check it out; if Norfolk Southern wants to they can swallow up your property and all your neighbors and there isn't a thing you can do about it! Typically the railroad has anywhere from 50’ to 100’ right away from the rail bed centerline, so sight distance or not they can cut, slash, bulldoze or burn what they want. I’ll agree it sucks but that’s just the way things go so count yourself lucky that all they took is a few trees and you got the firewood.

At Tuesday, March 20, 2007 7:37:00 PM, Blogger Dave Oatney said...

I know what eminent domain is, my friend-I am protected from its abuse by the specific terms of my deed-which, when the railroad foreman heard them, he trembled with fear. We and all of our neighbors (all of whom have similar deed provisions) got compensation and apologies and a promise to leave us alone from the railroad.


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