An Ornery Angel


On our road, there are two and a half miles between the hard road where my cousin’s farm is and the river ford. There are a handful of residents on the first half mile of the road. Once you get past that, heading out toward the river ford, you’ve only got scattered hunting cabins other than two houses plus ours. There is a woman who lives in one of these houses. I’ve had several interactions with her in the past year. The first interaction involved her car being broken down when she picked up her kids from the bus. I was on my way out to look at our then-under-construction house and I took her and her children home in my car. My second interaction with her, months later, was when I was passing her on the road. I happened to have my window down and she rolled her window down and told me that I drive too fast on this road and she didn’t like it. I thanked her for letting me know and went on. Now whenever I drive past her, I make sure my window is rolled up.

FYI, this is the woman who drives 5 mph who stopped in the road and picked up the turtle. Yeah, I didn’t like it that that incident made me like her a little bit. She still drives too slow. When I say 5 mph, I’m not exaggerating. Sometimes it’s 3. And I hardly think driving 15 mph on this road is acting like I’m on the Autobahn, so yeah, it annoyed me that she gave me a hard time that one day. I think she’s rude and bossy. (There is no posted speed limit on this road, though I’ve been told it’s commonly considered 25 mph on rock-based roads in this area. I don’t know for sure. It’d be difficult to go any faster than that without careening over a cliff, so I suppose no sign is posted because the rough, winding road forms it own limits.) It’s simply not necessary to creep along this road, though, which is what she does. Two and a half miles is a long way at creeping speed. There are various points along the road where I could go around her if she stopped or even pulled over just a little, but she never does that. She forces me to creep along behind her. For two and a half miles.

If I have to pass her on the road coming from the other direction, it’s always me who has to move, not her, even if it’s harder for me. One time I came across her and she stopped her car in the middle of the road. I waited for her to move over at least a little to help me pass her. She didn’t move. Eventually, she got out of her car, marched up to my car window, told me I had 4WD and she didn’t so she wasn’t going to move over and I’d better just figure out how to get around her. I asked her if she could move over just a little since there was a CLIFF there and she was in the MIDDLE of the road. She could move over a little to help, 4WD or not. Nope, not budging. I get a sense of resentment from her. I’m an outlander, “that writer” who built that house on the hill and pretends to be a farmer. I’m a blight upon the community and she’s letting me know, in her way, that I’m not welcome. And then there’s the fact that I came with all those teenagers. She doesn’t like them, either. She came stomping up to my house one day to complain about the way 17 drives. She thinks he drives too fast and she doesn’t like it. (Are we sensing a pattern here?) I thanked her for letting me know. Then she complained about him at the sheriff’s office, too.

In the house where this woman lives with her little children, they do have electricity, but little else. They have no phone service and no TV. Their house is actually two old single-wide trailers put together, and there is mildew almost completely covering the outside of the trailers. I don’t think they have any electric heat because in the winter they are always burning wood and I always think they are going to burn their trailer(s) down. Sometimes I complain that I need money, but all I have to do is look at their home when I drive out the road to know that I am blessed. Their living situation is the classic image of stark Appalachian poverty. I do think this woman is good-hearted–she stopped and got that turtle out of the road–and she is country-wise–she is one of the neighbors I watch to see if they will drive to the river ford or not. But I would never tell her that because I don’t like her. Well, maybe the truth is that I like her, but I don’t like that I like her because along with good-hearted and country-wise, she is so abrasive. Mostly, I just try to avoid her. Which isn’t hard since I have 40 acres to seclude myself. But whenever I drive out the road….. There she is, somehow, always, when I am on the road.

Then the other day I came across her on the road, stopped. She’s strange, so I just went past her then I thought, hunh, maybe I should check, so I stopped the car and told Princess to get out and run back there and find out if she was just stopped for no reason (or, heck, actually moving and I can’t tell because she drives so slow the human eye cannot detect the motion) or broken down. Princess ran back down the road then ran back. The woman’s car was broken down.

Remember that the first time I ever interacted with this woman, I gave her a ride because her car was broken down and all she’s ever done since then is give me a hard time. With great reluctance, I got out of the car and walked back to hers and said, “You want a ride back to your house until you can get some help?” (Cuz, like, if she’s got car trouble, I can’t do anything about that, but I can give her a ride home. And on that stretch of the road, far past the handful of houses at the head of the road and with the river ford closed to traffic from the other direction right now, she’s not likely to get help from anyone else.) I could look her in the eye and see that I was the last person in the known universe from whom she wanted to accept help. But she took it. And I took her home. We drove a mile down the road (at 15 mph, about which she made nary a complaint) and chit-chatted awkwardly about the big storm and I was so relieved when we got to her house and I could let her out.

Our phone was out that day (in the aftermath of the storm), and I told her, “I hope your phone is working so you can call someone because our phone is out.” She said, “We don’t have a phone.” And I felt really bad because I knew that (her little kids had told that to Princess one day on the bus) but I had temporarily forgotten because, well, everyone has a phone. or so you think, and it’s such a basic that it slipped my mind that she didn’t have one. But she said she would use her other car to go get someone to help her with her broken-down car.

And, rid of her at last, I drove away and felt good about helping her in spite of the fact that I didn’t want to help her. I felt good about it, well, honestly, partly because she didn’t want me to help her. I think it annoyed her that I helped her. (Revenge!) And I know that someday I might need help and she is one of the few people who live out here and now she has to help me whether she wants to or not because I have helped her twice. (Self-serving!)

What a crappy person I am! Then I couldn’t even feel good about helping her.

I told this whole story to 52 and he said, “Your trouble is that you are supposed to help her because she needs help and you should expect to gain nothing in return, neither revenge nor some reward in the future.”

He’s such a Yoda. I don’t know how he’s gotten through life without being smacked around more.

I figure this woman will be broken down in the road ten more times and each time I will be tested to see what my motivation is for picking her up, and when I finally pick her up with no motivation other than seeking the goodness of mankind, her country-wise, good-hearted, and abrasive self will evaporate as if she never existed because she was only put here on Earth as a mere figment, an ornery angel, to turn me into a better person.

Which, apparently, I am light years away from becoming as I imagine her entire existence revolving around the improvement of my character.


  1. Wammy says:

    And you will need her help one day. There are resons that you have had so many run ins with her. 52 is a wise man, wise beyond his years in so many ways. The day will come when you see her that you will smile and thank your lucky stars that God made your paths cross.

  2. Carolyn A. says:

    And that’s why you will continue to be blessed. Because you put aside the fact that this woman is abrasive and helped her anyway. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. We’ll wait and see, won’t we? I’m bad too. xxoo

  3. Mental P Mama says:

    The universe is busy at work. Pay attention. I try to… :butterfly:

  4. Karen H says:

    I’m guessing that she’s originally from West Virginia? And she drives that slowly? We live in Maryland and when we go squirrel hunting in the fall near Seneca Rocks (no, I don’t actually go hunting and no, I don’t eat them), the one thing I’ve learned about the yellow warning signs on the road is that, if a sign shows a curve ahead with a 40 mph limit, then doing 40 mph is actually pushing it and you’ll be hanging on for dear life if you do. The other thing I’ve learned is that generally West Virginia people drive FAST. If I’m doing almost 60 in 55 mph zone, I guarantee that just about everybody will pass me and leave me in the dust. We love West Virginia and hope to move there one day. Oh and by the way, we just received a batch of Americana chicks yesterday and we have a few that look just like Sparticus. We’ve already named one Maybelline because of the heavy eyeliner look. Enjoy your blog!

  5. happyathome says:

    What goes around comes around. You are being neighborly and you never know when you may need her help! Many other people would have not stopped. Look at what happened here in Hartford, CT in which an elderly man was hit by a car and no one bothered to stop and help him, people were driving around him! It is sick. Kudos to you!

  6. kacey says:

    52 is very wise…if annoying :mrgreen: Don’t you hate it when males are right sometimes???

  7. Karen Moorhead says:

    I came upon your website via Twitter & Sarah; so glad I did. I might have to forward you our Ann Arbor discussion on chickens and how they want to have ’em in town & what a fess it is making. I like the topic because I’m a wannabe country folk who never made it out. But still love horses and all just live between the city & country.

    Anyway great blog & I’ll visit more often.

  8. Kelly says:

    Wow, Suzanne, thanks for helping your neighbor, especially THAT neighbor.

    I guess we know that Yoda is right. I could go on and on about what MIGHT motivate this neighbor’s attitude and actions but instead I will just say thanks, you did the right thing, and may the force be with you!

  9. Robin G. says:

    52 is probably right. We should all be more like that.

    I myself, however, would have helped her, then badmouthed her to the empty car all the way home, and maybe said a small prayer that her car get shat on by sixty or seventy birds. But then, I’ve never made any bones about being a catty bitch.

  10. Heidi says:

    52 is wise!!! I would be she is testing/tormenting you for the same reason he explained. I cant stand people like that dang it!!! LOL When I worked as a ‘welfare worker’ people would judge me because I worked there and ‘handed out’ the benefits. But so many of the people just wanted to know that I had difficulties too. Maybe not to thier magnitude, but that my life was not all roses either. That seemed to melt things away. HOWEVER, in your situation – I have no advice as to how to change her – like 52 said ya have to look at her differantly… dont ya hate it when men are right!! SSSHHHEEESSHHH…. LOL

  11. Kathryn says:

    I am proud of you for doing the right thing. There are reasons for it, and you may never know them, but those reasons shape our lives.

  12. Cathy says:

    Hi Suzanne,
    You might want to consider reinforcing the lower part of your chicken run with hardware cloth. Raccoons can reach through and grab chickens through chicken wire or anything wide enough to get a paw through ( and can rip right through some chicken wire) and pull their little heads off. You may want to bury the wire several inches in the ground so that nothing can dig under. I am using a dog run for chicken run (with chicken wire over the top for hawks) and was advised that even though my set up and fencing was strong, it was not going to prevent coons without the hardware cloth.

    I loved your post today, btw.

    Cathy in Michigan

  13. Granny Sue says:

    We have a few slowpokes like that on my holler too. I think their reasons for driving so slow are several: they’re in no hurry (no job, no activities to rush to); they want to preserve the life of their vehicle; or they really are scared, even though they live on this road. But they’re neighbors, and it’s best not to make bad feelings with neighbors. I’ve learned to use the time to look at the wildflowers and other plants, update my planner, learn a new song, whatever. I only have to follow them for a few miles.

    She probably does resent you. You ain’t from here, even if your family has been here for generations, she prefers to think of you as an outlander. You also seem quite well-to-do to her, and green-eyed envy might be part of it. And a writer–well, you know about them!

    And if you aren’t all about you, who will be? Good on you for trying to understand this strange relationship.

  14. Blaze says:


    There is something very WV and very very Roane Co. about helping your neighbor even though they kind of suck an annoy you to no end.
    Its just what you do when they need a hand, and it doesn’t hurt that you know they kinda owe you one after it. 😉

  15. Kristen says:

    Most of the time we as people do not have the right motivations…..but helping others out is always right!! Way to go….I can only imagine how uncomfortable it was for the both of you in the car. She was probably thinking how glad she was that you were a speed demon at 15 mph so she could get out of the car that much sooner. That was a great example for your daughter to see. :thumbsup:

  16. Beckynsc says:

    God put us on this earth to take care of eachother.
    I would have helper her, too. But gritted my teeth the whole way. And prayed I never need her for anything!
    I have a neighbor similar to that. He has caused us numerous problems in the past. I would be dying of dehydration and still wouldn’t ask him for a drink of water!

  17. Kim A. says:

    Smart man, your 52.

    Here’s a quote that sums up situations and people like this:

    How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours. –Wayne Dyer

    I don’t think the woman is reaction to *you* personally. It’s what you represent, perhaps. I mean, often when someone angers us or we take a dislike to them, it’s reflecting something inside of us that we don’t like or perhaps wish we had — an aspect of our personality. Everything is a mirror of our own reflection.

    Even if you help her at some point with no thought to revenge or future reward, her behaviour is not likely to change. That *is* her Karma.


  18. Ann from Montana says:

    Yep, that universe…it has a way of teaching us things – often not what we expect…at least in my experience.

  19. MARY says:

    :fan: Well the good thing is, if she doesn’t have a phone, she probably won’t have a computer to see your blog! I think you will end up being her angel. Even though you may not see eye-to eye at this time, your paths may cross in such a way that you guys might end up friends. It sounds like she needs a friend!!!! As rural as it is there, she is probably worn out just surviving. Have a heart, woman!!! I know you do! Have a great day! :purr: P.S. Maybe her car won’t go much faster??????? And she pretends to hate speeders????????:guitar:

  20. Treasia says:

    Love today’s post. For 12 years I lived in a small Ozark town in AR. and for those five 5 years to the locals I was a transplant. And treated as such. As for me, I acted no different and eventually they actually liked me.

  21. Laura says:

    You are awesome. I loved this story. I’m not quite as magnanimous as 52, but I hope I would have given the woman a ride just because it’s the right thing to do. Even with unpleasant people, it’s better to kill ’em with kindness than let their annoying behavior make you behave badly (and thus feel bad about yourself). Besides, it has to be hard to be her.
    I read your blog every day and greatly enjoy it.

  22. Fannie M Wiggins says:

    It seems to me that maybe she isn’t a very good driver and is afraid to go faster. From what you are saying, she might be a single Mom. She might not have driven much. When I first started driving, I was the slowest driver anywhere. I had to gain confidence in my abilities before I speeded up. You did the right thing by helping her. You will never be in the wrong by helping others. It is humbling for us to have a man be right once in awhile, isn’t it? :shocked: (as long as they don’t do it often). Have a great day and :hug: to all.

  23. IowaCowgirl says:

    nice post S!

    Kim A: I printed out the Dyer quote and it lives on the refrigerator now. Thanks!

  24. TeresaH says:

    Oh wow, I would have given her a ride too, but then had to grit my teeth the entire time she was in the vehicle with me. The right thing to do isn’t always the most pleasant one. I remember when I moved to a small town in TX and I was the “foreigner” there…it took nearly 20 years to be halfway accepted, then I moved. :rotfl:

    Hopefully you never have to turn to her for help. She might be one of those people who will do anything for animals/wildlife (like her turtle incident) but may just drive right on by you…or rather, inch her way by you while shooting daggers at you with her eyes….

    Oh the fun of country living!

  25. DragonLady says:

    Your actions towards this woman have set a good example for your children and no doubt, you are the Angel. I feel sad for her children and I do hope they each obtain a good eduction so they don’t live their lives in despair like their mother. I agree with Mary in that I also think the lady needs a friend to talk to. Continue your good deeds and and don’t let this lady’s “road rage” upset your life, not even for a minute. And I love those beautiful chickens! :chicken:

  26. Melissa's Cozy Teacup says:

    My husband also has his, ‘Yoda’ moments risking a good smack very now and then. Perhaps, you should bake a loaf of grandma bread and either you, or one of the kids take it to her as a peace offering. When people, such as her, live hard lives, it can make them hard for no reason. A little bit of kindness shown toward them, some softness in a life full of rough edges can sometimes take the edge off them. it can also back fire and make her think you think she is poor and needs help feeding herself and her kids because sometimes life makes people mean for no good reason and no amount of kindness can keep them from being a sh!t. Yeah, life can be a crap shoot like that sometimes.

  27. Becky says:

    I have learned that it’s usually something for me to learn…or accept. I am thinking that there is nothing you are going to do to speed up her driving!
    Been reading for a while and love your writing. And photos. And recipes.
    I was an ‘outlander’ in a small rural community in central KY for about 10 years, and can so relate to alot of your experiences.

  28. Claudia W says:

    That last comment was a good one, well, wait they all were, and I agree! I have a mantra I chant each time I encounter a person who is abrasive like that…’I get to go home…she on the other hand has to live with herself.’ It’s a long mantra, but it sure does ease the pain of the interaction.
    You are a good person for helping, no matter what your motivation. And if you do need her help in the future I hope it is for some tiny little thing, because she might hold something bigger over your head forever. Oh the thought…

  29. Donna says:

    Ohhh man, have I had those kind of people to deal with! And read stories about similar. First of all, I have to agree with 52, being a Christian. We are accountable to God, for how we treat others, and leave it in His hands for how they treat us. I also know every case is different. For instance, I have chosen to stay away from a girl, who acts like she is the EPITOMY of Christians, who in fact is very devisive, hateful, rude. on and on. I choose now to stay away from her, after giving her AMPLE opportunities. Yes, I forgive her, but that doesn’t mean I have to continue to take that abuse, depending on the mood she is currently in.
    In your case, you do have to deal with her often. It is like she is purposely testing you, I agree. “I’ve lived her are an outsider…I am jealous of all you have”, ect. I would “kill her with kindness” and I feel she one day will return it (not that you care, but to make life easier LOL). I would almost go out of your way sometimes, to bring her a pie or or do something kind. “Just thought of you today and hope you like pie”..type thing. She may become your STRONGEST ally one day – totally loyal to you. That is how Ruth Graham won over the mountain fold in her biography – showing love and devotion for them and they would end up so loyal to her it was unreal. Hope that helps…just my 2 cents. LOL
    Now in the flesh (as they say – some of those that are so Heavenly, they are no earthly good)…you want to just Jap slap her. LOL Or sick Georgia on her, I am sure. A natural HUMAN reaction/emotion.

  30. Bertie says:

    Great post Suzanne! Found your blog several months ago and enjoy visiting every day.

  31. SuzieQ says:

    The fact that she stopped for the turtle makes her OK in my book, even if she’s one of those drivers that make me crazy..

  32. Donna says:

    P.S. – just being funny…we can always pray BOTH her cars break down OR she can’t afford gas. LOL But, no, her children would suffer! OR that she moves…gets moldy lung or dies of trailer trash..LOL

  33. Sharon Elkins says:

    Just keep smiling at her. She’ll wonder what you’re up to.

  34. Heidi says:

    I forgot to tell you, I started a blog… come visit me PLEASE SUE!!!

  35. Laura says:

    My new favorite expression is “Kill them with kindness”. I have found that works more often than not, in the small community I currently call home.

    And pie or bread delivered fresh to her door might also give you a glimpse of her life and vise versa, which would be eye opening. :heart:

  36. Tori Lennox says:

    I think you’re a good person to help her regardless of your motivation.

    What I’d like to know, though, is how she manages to drive so slow. I’ve never been able to go that slow unless I keep my foot on the brake! Even without my foot on the gas, my cars never went slower than 10mph!

  37. pticester says:

    I learned a long time ago that I just had to decide what kind of person I was going to be and act that way, without regard to what the other person did. Sure made my life easier.

  38. Jennifer Robin says:

    Good heavens, you could have been writing this for me (except I have 42 acres :shimmy: )I lived for one year here in a neighborhood where I heard the same complaint, and I was only going 10 mph (and the speed limit was 30!)Fortunately, I moved up the road to a place where I share the road with only one part time neighbor, and they drive faster than I do.

  39. Jodie says:

    I guess 52 is right. It’s part of the price for living where you live. Depending on the kindness of strangers or neighbors can be difficult. Plus there has to be some what of an envy factor on her part… You have a new home, satellite TV, phone & internet.

  40. Jean says:

    You are a truly good person! As is 52! As I read your post, I wondered what her childrens’ lives must be like. Any kindness shown on your part will benefit her children. And you are NOT an outlander since your family has been there for generations. Even if you were born elsewhere, you have simply returned.

  41. Diane says:

    I’m sure Mr. Fifty-Two (52) is right, but you’re probably more honest. Who wouldn’t want to rile that woman? So don’t go beating up yourself or your character. I have a neighbor who sounds like her (not the driving part or the phone part or the trailer part since I live in the big city, but alike personality-wise as in “It’s all about me and what I want”) and I secretly want to go egg her house at night while she’s sleeping (do witches sleep?), but I don’t so I’m counting that as strenght of character on my part. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  42. Tina L says:

    I love your honesty. I would be the same way. I believe you are already a good person, just normal.

  43. Donna says:

    When my parents moved to thier little hometown USA, they had an older well educated neighbor lady and she was a pain too. She’d come over and dictate how the shrubs should be cut, and this and that, letting my father know who was boss. They continued to be polite, ect. And over the years, this crabapple neighbor would eventually bring them seafood from trips to the coast and dips and this and that and then chat, ect. My father ended up helping her husband in a diabetic state…they lived by one another over 30 years, and ended on a good note…it just pays to do the right thing, ALWAYS.

  44. Annette says:

    You were very nice, just think if you would not have stopped, she could be saying ” that writer, she did not even stop to check on me and I had to walk, do you believe her” Maybe you will need help one day and she will remember your help! Maybe the reason she complains about your all’s driving is, she really does not have much of a life or she is just a person who like to complain!

  45. Brandy says:

    52 is right. Help should be given with no consequence expected. That said, you can’t help but not like to like her. *G* And no one ever said you had to like her.
    I hope you’re having a good day.

  46. KathyB. says:

    Again, I love your blog ! I read it every I will be babysitting my grandkids and we are going to make some of your Grandma Bread, gotta start those traditions…..I agree with one of the other comments above, I have raised chicks for years, have lots of chickens and lots of eggs to eat..I think Spartacus is an Americauna chicken and I suspect she is a hen..I will keep watching for her pics. We could always tell the Americaunas by what I call the “Cleopatra eyes”.
    About your neighbor, we live on the end of a country road, dealing with wash outs, etc, and NEIGHBORS who come out with GUNS when they think you’re going too fast. Our neighbor scared my visiting sisters so badly they don’t like to drive here after dark ! I love your line about your neighbors’ very existence being about you, I am guilty of that feeling sometimes ( O.K., a lot) and it helps to remember the world is not about me…but hey, sometimes maybe? KathyB.

  47. Susan says:

    Darn it, 52 is right! I hate to admit to a man being right about anything! We have neighbors that are very similar to the woman you helped. I think her rudeness stems from what she perceives as you having a easy life, which she doesn’t see herself ever having. The pettiness is her way of getting getting revenge on you. Hopefully you two will become friends one day.

  48. Estella says:

    You are such a nice person, Suzanne!
    I don’t know if I would have helped her.

  49. Chris says:

    I hear turtle soup is delicious! For a gal who has not-much, a turtle in the road could be a bit of a delicacy for that evening’s meal, you never know! I would have picked up turtle and found some water for it, but then I have a bit more than not-much.

  50. Suzanne McMinn says:

    All I can say for sure about Spartacus is that he (or she!) came out of a small banty-size white egg.

  51. Amy Addison says:

    Funny and touching. Huh. You should be a writer.

    Good for you for helping her, whatever your motivation.

    And I loathe pokey drivers, so I’m right there with ya.

  52. Ginger says:

    You’re not a bad person, so stop that. She resents you because you have what she will never have. You’ve chosen to overlook her ill temper and help the less fortunate. I’d say that makes you a pretty stellar person.

    Be careful how involved you get with this person. She will never cease resenting you, and that is not your fault. It may go underground, but it will be there. Don’t ever let her make you feel bad about yourself again.

  53. wkf says:

    She is only abrasive and ornery because you let her. If you just accept who she is she can’t bother you. I had a Psychologist friend tell me that(female), then had it reinforced at an Alanon(sp) meeting. It still is hard to do
    especially when we want to wallow around in female cattiness. :flying:

  54. Jodi says:

    I guess I’m bad because I was thinking that after she got into your car you should have driven about 40mph. She couldn’t complain, could she? LOL

  55. BekBek says:

    You call her an angel…and she truly, probably is…because there are no ‘coincidences’ in life. She has been put near you for a reason that, right now, only God knows. Just wait!!! The day will come, and I want to hear about it when you can figure out what REALLY is the purpose of you and her being neighbors!
    Today, however, say your prayers and thank God for your wonderfully warm, convenient, beautiful, and full of food farmhouse!

  56. BekBek says:

    I hope my last comment didn’t come off sounding RUDE. I did not mean it that way. I LOVE you Suzanne and I LOVE your blog!

  57. Suzanne McMinn says:

    BekBek, that didn’t sound rude at all! Not to worry! Thank you for the good thoughts.

  58. Shirley says:

    Everyone should have a thorn in their side. She’s obviously yours. Always be nice, she may be the one to introduce you to St. Peter when you get to the pearly gates.

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