Vital Signs

Killer Hedges

Sometimes it takes distance and time passed before we can look back and laugh at the situations that take place in our lives, but Tom Fleming's run-in with the busybodies in his hometown who objected to his bushes made me laugh, because my wife and I had a similar encounter.

Here's some background. The Village of Williamsville, about eight miles east of the Buffalo city line on the old stage coach road from Boston to Buffalo, was once a lovely little farming village settled by Connecticut Yankees after the War of 1812. After World War II, like so many other rural villages that surrounded great cities, it saw a phenomenal growth in population, but the character of the village remained relatively unchanged until the University of Buffalo built its new campus in Amherst during the Vietnam War, and the outskirts of the village— once dairy and wheat farms—were covered with shopping malls and strip plazas.

In 1986, my wife and I, with four children then, moved to Williamsville after a realtor showed us a magnificent but terribly neglected, four-square prairie-style house built of massive concrete blocks faced with granite chips. The builder, Ignatz Oechsner, was a local character who came from Germany and worked at one of the slaughterhouses on Buffalo's east side, and the house he built for himself at the turn of the century was a manly fortress. The base of the foundation was at street level and the...

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