After years of watching our subdivision close in around us, we’d begun dreaming rural dreams of raising our boys with enough room to roam. We looked and looked until we’d almost lost hope, and then we found our dream home on five acres. We were ecstatic, but it was the people on the other side of the fence who made our decision the best we’ve ever made.
I can only imagine what the neighbors must have thought when we moved in. We were a novelty. My husband is from Russia and speaks with an accent. And our sons were mere toddlers, while the majority of the neighborhood was retired.
Paul Fuller was one of the first people to introduce himself, even though there is a 50-year age difference between him and my husband. He told us he’d lived in his house since 1955. He invited us to church and scoped us out for the rest of the neighborhood. He was interested in renting our pasture for his eight cows. We were interested in not having to mow it. After helping us hang a couple of gates and some cattle panels to fix the fence, his girls became our “neighbor cows.” Our sons loved watching them eat grass and were even more excited when the calves came. We fed them grain through the fence, and their long tongues would lick my youngest from his elbows to his wrists while he squealed with excitement. We never needed any other repayment.
Before long, we decided to add some hairy beasts to our family. We’d already brought along a kitten named Mouse, who promptly took up residence at the Fullers’ (Alta Fuller still cooks Mouse’s breakfast), and had decided to buy a pony “for the children.” Paul brought his tractor and showed my husband how to stretch fence and helped get us ready for Roany Pony.
Then came a loaner horse from my mom, named Scooter, who never went home. Paul always calls me after he’s seen me out riding Scooter in the pasture, and I feel safer knowing he’s watching out for me. I told him if he ever sees the horse with a saddle and no rider, he should come looking for a lump in the pasture. And I’m sure he will.
Last year, we added turkeys to our brood. We ended up with three toms that had to go somewhere, so why not the freezer? We tried for months to find someone to prepare them for their arctic journey, but no one was interested. Mr. and Mrs. Fuller to the rescue once again. Alta and her sisters had raised turkeys when they were young, so she was an expert at home-processing a turkey. Paul had everything ready one evening when I got home from work, and he’d even captured our victim. They both patiently helped me with every step of the DIY turkey project. That first turkey weighed 40 pounds and was too big to fit in my oven. I cooked him for my 20-plus co-workers with turkey to spare. Everyone still gets a kick out of reminiscing about “Turkeyzilla.”
Our rural dreams have been a reality for about three years now. We have our neighbors to thank for a great deal of our happiness and success. We’ve borrowed everything from feeders and waterers to tillers and log splitters. We’ve made memories with these neighbors that will never be forgotten. They always offer welcoming smiles, helping hands and candy for our children. We think of them not just as our neighbors, but as a part of our family.
As the years pass, I know the Fullers won’t always be able to enjoy the active lifestyle they have led for the past 80 years. Paul’s garden is still as large as it has always been, but he is down to two cows this year. Alta is still full of life, but her arthritis keeps her inside more and more. As we share eggs and memories, wire and knowledge, candy and experience, I can only hope that someday I may repay even a portion of what they have given us by being our neighbors.
Mickie Dessiatova spends her days banking and dreaming of full-time turkey farming in Collinsville, Oklahoma. She is inspired by clean living, manual labor and good neighbors.