I love my yard, or as it was called in England, my garden. We have so much planted, areas laid out with broad swathes of color and texture, that I think we can call the whole affair a garden and easily get by with it. I call our place Orchard Cottage, which is what our home in England was named, because of all the fruit trees and bushes that surround us here as it did there.
Our place is not large, but cozy and very comfortable for the two of us and room for guests when they arrive. The front porch is large and shaded with hanging pots of broad leaf moss roses (Portulaca) petunias of every hue, mostly double and rose bushes all around. There’s a Mandavillia vine curling its way over the porch rail and a volunteer cantaloupe twining its way alongside. There are cats sleeping on the porch rail, escaping the heat of the day, their sweet faces turned toward the front door in hopes someone will come out and sit with them.
Looking over to the front drive the other day, Mac allowed as how a Gazebo would look fine up there, inviting us within its cool depths on the way back from the mailbox. I had to laugh, he who is always accusing me of “having visions,” was apparently having a few visions of his own. I told him I didn’t think I wanted a Gazebo, though the idea was nice. He looked at me for a second, reached out and touched my face and smiled and said “Chesterfield’s Gazebo get you spooked?” and suddenly laughed one of those laughs that only a man can manage, head thrown back, bellows of sound erupting like silly thunder. I nodded, oh yes … Chesterfield’s Gazebo.
Chesterfield is such an amazing little town, the County Seat, only one street long with shops on either side, a bank at the corner by the Courthouse, the Western Auto Appliance Store directly across from the brick edifice we call the Courthouse … the old Courthouse, which is at the other end of the street actually looks like what it is. It has charm and character and stories to tell, but a couple of decades ago someone got it into their heads that building a new Courthouse and making it look like some large brick box with a flat roof might make Chesterfield seem an up and coming thriving town. So we have this nondescript brick building we call the courthouse, across the street is the Western Auto and next to the Western Auto a small grassy area that held … nothing. So the Town Council agreed to erect a lovely little Gazebo there, a place where perhaps lunches could be taken, or just a place to sit and rest and talk with friends. It was a wonderful concept.
Now, Chesterfield is a small town, as I have said. But we have more than our share of — for lack of a more politically correct word — town drunks. This is no Mayberry where Otis comes in and takes the key off the wall and opens the door, locks himself in and goes off to sleep. While we have our share of those who go peacefully down the hall to the cell block, and even those who had family members drive their beloved drunk family member to the jail and unceremoniously boot them out the door into our loving arms, for the most part our drunks don’t want to be locked up. They want to drink. They want to drink in peace and quiet. And one night they stumbled upon this lovely gingerbread construction, sort of an open air drinking spot … and they thought, (I can hear strains of “there’s a plaaace for us … right here a place for us …”) why how thoughtful. The town has erected us a gathering place. No more will we have to hide out in the back lots looking for concrete block upon which to rest our weary drunken bones. And a trash receptacle … don’t know what that’s for, bottles and cans belong littered upon the ground to prove that we were here.
I was on my way home from work one night and saw my cousin (who was a town cop) sitting in her patrol car, parked where she had a clear view of the Gazebo. I pulled in next to her, my driver’s side window next to her driver’s side window (when you see cops parked like this along the highway, they’re not trying to set the radar to work both ways — it already does that in one car alone — they’re chatting, comparing calls, catching up on what’s been going on) and asked her what was up. She had her reading glasses on and pushed them up on top of her head and laid the crossword puzzle book down on her lap.
“We’ve been getting complaints that the Gazebo has turned into a gathering spot for every drunk in the county. So far I count four.” I looked over at where she indicated and named two “frequent flyers” from my own experience. I asked her what she was going to do. “Just waiting for them to get drunk enough to forget I’m here and start passing that bottle around … and they’ll pass it around, believe me. Then that’s when I’ll go get them and take them off to the jail.”
We sat and talked for a couple of minutes and then it happened — happy hour in the Gazebo. She picked up her radio and called the jail. She told them she was about to be 10-67 four times and to meet her under the Sally port. This was a scene that was repeated every day. Sometimes several times a day. There were male and female drunks and the worst of them were the females. I’d rather have dealt with a drunk man than a drunk woman any time of the day.
I don’t remember how long the Gazebo stood on the little corner lot that was intended to be a park of sorts, but it wasn’t long. Perhaps two years, maybe three. But the Council in all its wisdom deemed the Gazebo no longer a part of the beautification of Chesterfield, but an eyesore. And so they tore the little Gazebo down … nothing there now but sand and small tufts of Dallas grass, a few rocks to get stuck in the soles of your shoe if you walk that way towards the Western Auto. The drunks are now relegated out of sight mostly to the back lots, going to the red dot store (ABC Store, Liquor Store whatever you call it in your neck of the woods) and scurrying quickly away so that the cops can’t interfere with what they do best.
And so as I stand gazing up towards the front drive where Mac was envisioning a Gazebo, I hear the words in my head just as they came in “Field of Dreams”… “build it and they will come… .” A chill went straight through me. I shook it off and muttered under my breath “oh no, not only no but HELL NO!”
— Sandi McBride is a resident of Jefferson who blogs regularly and enjoys her garden and her furry and feathered friends. She is a wife and mother of two sons.