How you choose to express your displeasure with an irksome neighbor depends on the setting you live in. Perhaps it’s a regular stink eye in the elevator, a good old-fashioned toilet papering or allowing your pooch to pee freely in their prized azaleas. Where you live dictates what you can get away with during a neighborly feud — and how far it can escalate.
If you happen to live in rural New Brunswick, Canada, it would appear that nothing is off-limits when it comes to sparring neighbors — not rocks thrown via snow blower, hoof-inflicted lawn damage resulting from trespassing cows or a pile of manure so large and so high that it’s clearly visible from space.
As reported by the Calgary Herald, the aforementioned Google Earth-viewable manure mountain served as the impetus for a heated court battle between two New Brunswick couples residing (once peacefully one would assume) in the sleepy farming community of Indian Mountain, located just outside of Moncton. One of the couples, David and Joan Gallant, allege that their not-so-kindly neighbors, Lee and Shirley Murray, piled the manure on the edge of their property for nearly a year until it, well, grew into a steaming, steaming and very large mass of poop.
“The manure was piled high and a photo taken by Google (Earth) from a satellite shows it,” noted Court of Queens Bench Justice George Rideout in his ruling against Lee and Shirley Murray. “I have little doubt these activities were initiated by the Murrays and designed to inflict fear, nuisance and harassment against the Gallants.”
He continues: "In my opinion, based on the evidence before the court, the manure was placed where it was for only one purpose, to make Mr. and Mrs. Gallant's lives miserable."
Rideout awarded David and Joan Gallant $15,000 (roughly $11,450 USD) in damages and issued an injunction that explicitly forbids the Murrays and, presumably, their cows from stepping foot on the Gallant’s property — and from blowing rocks and slinging manure onto it from across property lines. The judge also ordered the Murrays, whose own property surrounds the Gallant’s on three sides, not to communicate with their embattled neighbors unless it's in writing.
Why did they pull out the manure card?
It’s not entirely clear what caused the bad blood between the two couples. Did David and Joan Gallant commence the feud by doing or saying something horrible and despicable about or to the Murrays? Did a particularly odious offense committed by the Gallants spark this dung-weaponizing spat?
Again, the origin of the feud is unclear. What is known, however, is that it's exceedingly cruel, no matter how much you might not care for your immediate neighbors, to bring loaders-full of “fresh, unseasoned wet, raw manure” into the picture.
It’s also known that the feud between Gallants and the Murrays stretches back several years. According to court affidavits, things didn’t take a turn for the manure-y until late 2013 when Lee Murray, who sold the Gallants the parcel of land they now own back in 2001, got into the habit of early morning manure dumping on a strip of land shared by the two couples.
“The smell was so bad it cut your breath away,” David Gallant tells the CBC, claiming that Murray, whom he once considered a friend, ignored his polite pleas to knock it off.
As a nose hair-singeing manure mountain began to take form on the edge of the Gallants’ land and eventually began to spill into their own property, the couple began to document additional acts of agrarian aggression committed against them by their neighbors. In March 2014, the Gallants accused the Murrays of snow blower misuse; in May 2014, the embattled couple claimed that 50 cows escaped (perhaps with some help) from the Murray property and trampled — and pooped — all over their lawn, causing extensive damage to the turf and trees; in September 2014, the Gallants allege that Lee Murray positioned a large hay bale near the couple’s shared fence “with the presumably intentional effect that it drew his cattle to eat, urinate and defecate as close to our house as possible.”
Soon thereafter, the New Brunswick Farm Practices Review Board stepped in to intervene at the request of David and Joan Gallant. The Murrays were forced to clear away the manure pile in October 2014, which by then had grown so massive it was viewable on Google Earth. In December 2014, the board found the Murrays to be guilty of “unacceptable farming practices” in relation to the cattle breach and and recommended numerous changes. The next day, the Gallants found a mysterious and large scratch on their car.
In early 2015, the Gallants sued the Murrays to halt “an increasing pattern of aggression” being directed at them. The couple plans to appeal the recent court ruling, claiming that they are the ones being harassed and that they would never, ever torment their neighbors with marauding cattle and the greater Moncton area’s largest-ever manure pile, which Lee Murray claims was "old" and didn't smell nearly as horrific as the Gallants have claimed.
“I’m not that type of guy,” a Lee Murray told the Calgary Herald when reached by phone.
Meanwhile in Kentucky …
It's interesting to note that New Brunswick hasn’t produced North America’s only manure-based court battle headlines in recent weeks. Thousands of miles away from Canada’s Maritime Provinces, the small city of Auburn, Kentucky, has been rocked to the core by horse diapers — or a lack thereof.
After being ordered to comply with a 2014 ordinance that requires all street-walking horses to don a “properly fitted collection device” to catch falling manure, two Amish residents of Auburn have filed a lawsuit claiming that the horse diaper ordinance directly violates their religious freedoms.
The city, which has fined and jailed several Amish residents over the past couple of years for flagrantly defying the law and allowing their horses to defecate directly in the streets, deny that religious persecution has anything to do with the law. “This is just a health and safety issue that needed to be addressed,” W. Currie Milliken, an attorney representing the city in the new lawsuit, explains to the Wall Street Journal.
This all said, many Amish orders would take no issue to outfitting their horses with diapers; most would consider it a common courtesy when sharing the road in rural communities. However, the Amish residing in Auburn are Swartzentruber Amish, a hyper-conservative subgroup of Old Order Amish who eschew pretty much everything associated with modern society, including things that other Amish communities might permit.
“They knew at the time they enacted the ordinance that the Amish wouldn't do it ... and they enacted the ordinance anyway,” argues Dan Cannon, a civil rights attorney representing the plaintiffs in their suit against the city.