Our neighbors moved out next door. Their house is dark. A dark, empty house has a different feel than a dark, full house. It’s darker, emptier and more prone to be the subject of darker and emptier thoughts if one was prone to having such thoughts, which one is not.

Gone are the dogs tearing around the yard, silent are the screen doors that would open first thing in the morning, absent are snatches of conversation between a couple setting up chairs, tables and tablecloths for a Saturday afternoon birthday party.

Stay in one place and you will have all kinds of neighbors. Some are good, some are less good and some are more less than good.

The ones who moved were good. They were young and lively rather than young and wild. They worked and work started in the morning.

They knew how to lean over a fence. Talk over a fence. Visit over a fence.

Once or twice, I asked Logan if he could feed the dogs while we were out of town. The answer was always yes unless he planned to be gone too. I don’t know if Charlie, the scrappy terrier mix bit him when he fed him but if he did, Logan never mentioned it.

He could have mentioned it, he had every right to mention it, but a good neighbor is not likely to sue you over a torn pant cuff.

I paid him in red wine when he fed the dogs, handing a bottle over the fence. A lot of business can be transacted over a backyard fence and with good neighbors, most of that business is done in trade. A bottle of wine, a jar of apricot jam, a dozen sweet oranges.

A year ago when Trisha and Logan moved back home from Redding, it was a homecoming of sorts. Logan grew up in the neighborhood and was friends with Herbie, our oldest son. Some of our earliest memories of Logan have him climbing something — doorways, trees and most recently, the climbing wall he built in the backyard.

When they rented the house next door, it was our gain and Redding’s loss. They are everything that is good about Bakersfield — not complicated, not troubled and not looking for gain at somebody else’s expense.

Logan built an outdoor seating area out of pallets. I was skeptical but when he added cushions and the finished product looked like it had come from a fancy furniture shop I wasn’t just skeptical, I was wrong.

I was sad when I heard that the house had been sold a couple of weeks ago. Maybe sadder than they were. Redding and I now had something in common.

No future in being sad. Turns out, we’ve known the new neighbor for 30 years. Kids connection, school connection, Bakersfield is a small-town-connection.

She’s renovating. Bathroom, kitchen, a house full of projects. Saws, hammers, the symphony of change has begun. These are not bad sounds but promising ones.

While the house is empty, I fill it in with some of the people who have been there since we arrived 25 years ago. One of the liveliest (fun lively) was Martha Fischer. With her daughters — Tahlia, Margaux and Natasha — they lived in the backyard, entertained in the backyard and popped many corks there.

Over the fence, I’d hear Klaus’ voice. Klaus Hoeper was Martha’s father. His voice burst with life, pleasure and joy.

He told jokes, he told stories. He laughed and so did everyone else. When I couldn’t hear the particulars, his gist was clear: Celebrate every day, and twice over dinner.

Good neighbors have moved and Klaus has recently moved on. Moved on to the strains of Bach, Brahms and Beethoven and the sounds of a cork leaving a bottle. I will miss you both.

Herb Benham is a columnist for the Bakersfield Californian and can be reached at hbenham@bakersfield.com or 661-395-7279.

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
PLEASE TURN OFF YOUR CAPS LOCK.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.