Kevin Courtney

Kevin Courtney is city editor of the Napa Valley Register.

Home ownership is not for the faint of heart. Things are always breaking, leaking, clogging, peeling.

You think you have things under control. You’ve tackled the hard jobs. Time to kick back and enjoy your home.

This line of thinking is a setup. You become a sitting duck when things go all kahooey.

The traumas of ownership? Where to begin?

I once looked out my kitchen window upon a landscape I did not recognize. My neighbor’s yard had melded with mine.

The 6-foot fence that defined our realms had keeled over. Two yards were now one.

Then there was the call I got one day at work from the fam. Come home, they said. Water’s dripping from the living room ceiling.

A new rooftop TV antenna had been installed improperly. Possibly by me.

Trees can also turn on you. We’ve had several toilet clogs where roots were to blame. Family life grinds to a halt when the toilets don’t flush.

Less catastrophic, but more common: Drips under the sink.

I wouldn’t be reviewing life’s little miseries but for events last weekend.

I was fishing leaves out of our pool as a light rain fell. I wasn’t feeling so great about this autumn chore but what are you going to do.

Then, out of no where, a mighty wind sprang up, and I heard a CRACK! As I watched, two sections of redwood fencing lurched from the upright position toward me, stopping in mid-collapse.

I was stunned. Our backyard was exposed to the world. Motorists and every strolling Tom, Dick and Harry could look in. As for the deer, I might as well invite them to brunch.

Fighting the force of the wind, I tried to stand the fence back up, but this was clearly a job for two people.

I have a special voice I use when circumstances are dire and I need Cheryl’s attention. Sticking my head into the laundry room, I called out her name using a tone that said it all.

As she came running, she could only wonder what now? Pool leaking? Tree down? Termites?

Seeing our defenses collapsed, she went scrambling for rope as I propped up the fence, trying my best to avoid a total flipover.

Then she began lashing a cracked post to a mature oleander which helped stabilize things. When it came to tying up a second post, she hesitated.

We only had one rope and she was loathed to cut it.

Cut it, Cheryl, cut it!

She wouldn’t do it. A rope is only as good as its length, she said.

What did this even mean?

Ultimately we found more rigging materials and tied the fence multiple ways to the oleander on one side and a Japanese maple on the other. Whichever way the wind blew, we had the fence stabilized.

Having reexamined weather reports for that day and replayed the moment the fence cracked, I have concluded we were hit by a rogue gust of at least 40 mph. That’s right. We were sucker punched by Mother Nature.

Honestly, I shouldn’t have been so surprised. Those fence post had been wiggly for some time. The wiggles were trying to tell me something.

Indeed, two years ago, sensing how things were going, I had bought replacement posts and bags of cement, intending to get on it.

I did get “on it” in the sense that whenever I park my car in the garage at night, I park over the 4X4s that lie in the middle of my bay.

What with the holidays and all, I’m not highly motivated to permanently improve our fence situation. Cheryl did such a good job of lashing the posts to trees that she may have bought me added months of lethargy.

The status quo, crude and pathetic as it is, may get us by until spring. The fence is currently a pushover, but I doubt the deer know this.

Kevin Courtney's Fave 5 of 2019

2019 is ending with a flurry of good stories. These are some of my favorite. They capture the flavor of life in Napa.

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Kevin can be reached at 707-256-2217 or Napa Valley Register, 1615 Soscol Ave., Napa, 94559, or kcourtney@napanews.com.


City Editor

Kevin has been city editor since September 2010. He joined the Register in 1973 as a reporter. He covered Napa City Hall and assorted other beats over the years. Kevin has been writing his Napa Journal column on Sundays since 1989.