I have never believed the old saying that good fences make good neighbors because, really, who wants to live next door to a guy who deals in stolen merchandise?
Fortunately for me and my wife, Sue, the neighbors on both sides of us are friendly, law-abiding citizens.
Still, we needed a new fence recently because the two front sections of the old one were rotting, sagging and generally in deplorable condition, which our neighbors are too nice to say about me.
So we called Suffolk Fence Co. of Port Jefferson Station, N.Y. As its name implies, the company specializes in fencing (not with swords, thank God) and offers an array of styles, all of which come with doors that don't, like the one on our old fence, have to be held up by ropes.
At 9 a.m. on a sunny Saturday, Herberth and David arrived to install our new fence.
"I've been here before," said Herberth, who remembered coming over several years ago to replace a side-yard fence that was crushed when one of our trees fell on the house next door.
"The tree crashed through the roof of the garage," I said. "Fortunately, we have good neighbors. Their insurance company covered the damage and they got a lot of free firewood."
"My father-in-law says that when a hurricane is coming, you should go up on the roof and rip it up, then call the insurance company and say, 'I need money.' Of course, he's only kidding," said Herberth, who kidded me about my Three Stooges T-shirt. "I used to watch them in Spanish when I was growing up in El Salvador," he recalled.
"I can just imagine Curly saying, 'Buenos dias. Nyuk, nyuk, nyuk!'" I said.
Herberth pointed to the image of Moe on my shirt and said, "He's the smart one, but he's really pretty dumb."
"Can you imagine if the Stooges installed fences?" I said.
"It would be crazy!" Herberth exclaimed.
Just then, David walked by, playfully flipping a hammer.
"If it hit him in the head, it would be funny," Herberth said.
"If it hit me in the head," I added, "he'd need a new hammer."
"Just like the Stooges," said Herberth, who asked if we have a dog.
"We used to," I replied, "but she went to that big backyard in the sky."
"I wanted to make sure that if you had one, she wouldn't get away when we took the old fence down," said Herberth, adding that his dog used to dig under the fence at home. "She'd go over to my neighbor's house for a visit. My boss gave me a fence, which was very nice of him, but I had to put another one outside the den door so the dog would have her own area."
Herberth has had his share of both dog and people trouble on the job.
"One time I was taking a customer's fence down and his neighbor got angry. He said he was going to send out his pit bull so it could eat me," Herberth remembered. "I said, 'Go ahead. I have a hammer.' I love animals and would never hurt one, but I wanted to see what this guy would do. It turned out that he didn't have a pit bull, just this little dog that was pretty cute. One other time, a little dog bit me on the knee, but it was cold and I was wearing thermal pants, so it didn't break the skin."
"Do good fences make good neighbors?" I asked.
"I don't know," said Herberth, who has been on the job for 13 years. "I have good neighbors. So do you. But some people don't like their neighbors. One time I had to put a 4-foot-tall section of lattice on top of the fence we had installed so this guy's neighbors couldn't look over and see him."
Herberth and David took down the two old sections of fencing, which were made of wood, and installed new ones, which are PVC. They worked hard and did a fantastic job.
"That looks much better," I said.
"It's a good fence," Herberth noted. "I guess that makes you a good neighbor."