The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

Welcome to Emanon

Hay fields like this are prime targets for developers who claim the new homes will increase the tax base.(First printed in the Gettysburg Times, 7/5/2013)

Life was good for many years in Emanon. Herons and osprey hunted the creek, and people generally enjoyed living here. There was a move to pave Main Street, but a rather vocal group claimed it would just allow drivers to go faster. Better to leave the potholes as sort of inverse speed bumps.

Far and wide, word went out that people in the town were friendly, schools were good, and a place to build a home was, relative to many bigger burgs, affordable. Development firms with offices in several states touted the jobs they would create for local workers who would build new homes for new residents, resulting in new revenue in town coffers from the new residents who bought the new homes. All would be beautiful and prosperous in the quiet rural air of Emanon.

And it was.

Until some miscreant decided to break into one of the new homes and make off with a brand new flat-screen TV set large enough to play at the town movie house and require a rather large vehicle to haul off. Right away, a group of recent arrivals from the Big City decided there should be a police department. By then, the new folks outnumbered the old, and at a Special Township Meeting one June evening, a motion passed to levy a tax on everyone to pay for a police car and some radios and a couple officers to drive around and make sure people’s TV sets remained unmolested.

At the next township meeting, a group of concerned citizens argued that volunteer emergency medical technicians were insufficient for Emanon’s eldering population. It seemed prudent, they said, to hire full-time medics and equip the town ambulance so residents in trouble would not have to wait for medical assistance to arrive from across the county.

“By then, I could be dead,” said Mr. Royce, a retired elementary school principal recently moved to Emanon. The motion was approved by an overwhelming margin, and the cost added to the following year’s budget.

A few months later, Tim Brown, a dairy farmer at the edge of town, decided it was time to retire. His kids had gone off to college and learned easier ways to earn a living, so Farmer Brown sold his 500-acre parcel to a developer, who planted 700 new homes, a new police station for the additional officers that would be necessary, and a new fire and EMS station to house the new equipment, including the new ambulance and three new full-time emergency medical providers approved at the previous meeting.

About six months after the Preserves at Brown’s Glen opened, a wag at a township meeting noted the new taxes necessary to pay for the police and fire services and the finally smoothly-paved roads were about three times what Farmer Brown had been paying on 500 acres of grass and a house and barn.

And then Mrs. McElvoy pointed out houses were getting a little too close together to depend on septic systems any longer and Supervisor Roberts said the township planning commission had hired an engineer to begin designing a waste treatment system that would serve everyone.

“What will that cost?” Mrs. McElvoy queried.

“We’re not sure yet,” Roberts replied, “but the cost will be covered by users paying to hook up to it, and a monthly fee for using it.”

“Who will have to use it,” she asked.

“Everyone in town,” he answered.

“Tell us again, sir, how all those new homes have increased the tax base,” she said as she took her seat.


  1. Well told fable that describes what is happening in small communities across the country. Here developers are cutting down trees and building new shopping areas all over the county and city. The old stores are standing empty and turning into ugly piles of concrete. Sometimes new renters use the old buildings but find it hard to direct traffic to their businesses.

  2. Same here. I can’t take the dog with me shopping in summer because the first thing even the most “environmentally friendly” establishments do is cut down all the shade and pave the place with blacktop – both of which increase the temperature of the whole place, thus adding to the global warming they claim doesn’t exist.

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