Otis had intended to plant a windrow of trees along his north property line to reestablish the privacy he'd lost when a new house moved in next door. My chief failure was the opposite - that of not clearing the undergrowth that Sue and I had realized blocks a three-mile view from our house.
Clyde, watching his retirement savings further implode, hadn't booked the 50th-anniversary cruise he and Abigail had talked about for years, while Chester was still catching heck about the sagging gray shed he'd promised to give a new backbone and a proper barn-red finish.
The pond Mark had planned to be stocking with fish by now was still on paper. Cindy thrice, from performance anxiety, had handed off brilliant research to lesser attorneys to argue.
The wars of words
Bud had sold his cows in October for lack of hay, but the failure belonged to the rest of us: We'd visited him in the hospital after his hernia in July - laughing at one of Chester's jokes made him pass out from pain - but none of us had thought to ask what other kind of help he needed.
The mention of field work raised a John Deere-vs.-International tractors conversation strand, which quickly led to Ford-vs.-Chevy-vs.-Dodge-vs.-Toyota pickups. It didn't take much effort for us to take up squirts and shirts: Coke vs. Pepsi and Carhartt vs. Columbia, respectively.
With each topic, the talk grew tauter, but it was nothing like what happened after somebody mentioned Bulldogs and Rebels and after someone else pushed the envelope by arguing Colonels and Black Bears.
We argued boxers and briefs, boxers and Labs, carpet and hardwood and tile. We sacrificed all dignity to debate the merits of buying one expensive vacuum cleaner as opposed to a series of cheap ones before two of the guys started in on Skoal vs. Copenhagen.
About the time we took up rock-vs.-country-vs.-pop, Bro. Earl (no relation) walked in. He compared our debate to those that he often referees over worship styles. The advice he gave, we realized, covers a multitude of misunderstandings.
"It's OK to like what you like, as long as you allow the other fellow the same leeway," he said. "The key is knowing the difference between preference and principle."
Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau Errol Castens at email@example.com.