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Would I kid you?


From the outside, I think we look normal enough in our white, two-story house along the highway. We keep the yard mowed, buy Girl Scout cookies, wave to neighbors, walk to church and live a fairly quiet life. I like to run around naked in the yard when there’s a full moon, but I only do that in the early morning hours when everyone else is safely tucked asleep. The low profile worked to my advantage while I raked in the dough from my marijuana growing operation and stacked the hundred dollar bills in the closet.
We did cause a row with our neighbors when we first moved here, however. I wanted to put up a small, residential-sized windmill in the backyard.
We live on top of the ridge along the Iowa River Valley assuring that a parade of deer go through our yard and a stream of air races over it.
“You’ll notice it’s really windy here,” the previous owners advised us. We found it to be true.
Investing in renewable energy these past years is a no-brainer. With advances in technology and tax breaks being offered both at the state and federal level, you usually make a full return on your money in just over a decade and then turn a tidy profit. Maybe wind doesn’t work for you, but have you looked at solar or geothermal? Meanwhile, you improve the value of your home, make a small step towards energy independence for our nation and help the environment. Win, win, win, win!
Nevertheless, homeowners in our neighborhood freaked when they learned of our application for a zoning variance to allow the windmill. It would be noisy, hurt property values and fall on the dear children playing in the yard.
When was the last time anyone saw a kid playing outside?
People put up a lot crazier stuff and it hardly raises a peep. Currently, for example, a couple is planning to erect a 7,500-square-foot home made to look like a scaled-down version of the University of Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium. When complete, it will feature the signature arches, a press box, inner courtyard, lawn marked to look like the gridiron, and specially designed sloped roofs made to look like grandstand seating. You’d think that’d be controversial, right? Well maybe a little, but there’s a whole other Hawkeye Nation faction that thinks it’s a great tribute to their favorite team.
So that project is going forward.
Yet people came out of the woodwork opposed to our inconspicuous scheme. Technically, we live in the county, but had to get approval from Coralville (town motto: We think we’re Iowa City) because our property abuts the municipality’s limit. I used to run the Coralville newspaper and can speak first hand how apathetic the people are in this suburb. The vast majority of citizens don’t even know they have their own city council, much less participate in government by paying attention and voting. So you can imagine my surprise when two dozen people showed up at a planning and zoning meeting to protest the “eyesore.” I figured for every person that showed at the meeting there was another who mistakenly went to Iowa City.
I was hurt, angry and a little depressed when Planning and Zoning voted unanimously against the windmill.
In retaliation, I wanted to build a fake but real looking oil-pumping rig out of particleboard and PVC pipe painted black. I’ve done this sort of thing before. Years ago, for example, I built the world’s largest potato gun/cannon using the same construction technique. It wasn’t actually a cannon, but it sure looked liked one from 100 feet away.
The “nodding donkey” was going to be placed in the front yard, complete with a small motor giving it motion, a couple of leaking oil barrels sitting around, and a speaker blasting the sound track from a real working pump. I planned to let it drop, when I talked with neighbors, that we had discovered oil under our property.
“We’re pumping up about $200 a day of sweet crude,” I intended to say. “And we didn’t even have to get a zoning change.”
Let the SOBs chew on that for a while. Sabra put her foot down, however, and the contraption was never built. Since then, it’s been pretty quiet in the neighborhood.
Mostly quiet, except on nights with a full moon.