"...we should pass over all biographies of 'the good and the great,' while we search carefully the slight records of wretches who died in prison, in Bedlam, or upon the gallows."
~Edgar Allan Poe

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

Newspaper Clipping of the Day

via Newspapers.com

Everyone knows that neighbors can get into battles over anything. Anything.

My friends, marvel at the harrowing saga of New York's Great Woodpecker War. From the (Camden, New Jersey) "Morning Post," April 13, 1912:
New York, April 13. All because of a woodpecker the families of Algernon S. Schaefer, a New York banker, and William B. Lawrence, a broker with offices at No. 20 Broad street, whose properties in North Broadway, Yonkers, adjoin, have come to a parting of the ways.

The two families, who have been on the friendliest of terms for years, are friendly no longer. Because of this energetic woodpecker. Mrs. Lawrence has left Yonkers and moved Into her town residence at No. 256 West Fifty-seventh street. There at least the never ceasing "tapety tap! tapety tap! tapety tap!" will not disturb her slumbers in the early morning hours.

At the edge of the Schaefer place is a tall oak tree. Two years ago a woodpecker decided he liked the tree and took possession of it. The tree is almost against the Lawrence fence and close to the broker's house.

Mr. Schaefer, a bird lover and member of the Audubon Society, took an interest in the woodpecker and watched his labors from the time sap began running in the oak until fall.

Mr. Lawrence took an interest in the woodpecker also, but it was a different kind. One day the broker went to the banker and said: "Schaefer, doesn't that woodpecker disturb you and your household? There are times when he seems to make more noise than a battery in action. If you are going to let him stay there I wish you would teach him to stay in bed until 8 o'clock and be more civilized."

The woodpecker did not change his schedule of working hours, and some weeks ago when he resumed operations he could always be counted upon to begin his tapping about sunrise.

Mr. Lawrence again went to Mr. Schaefer and said: "You have got to kill that bird. We simply can't stand it. He has got on Mrs. Lawrence's nerves frightfully."

"No; I don't believe in killing birds." replied the banker. "If that woodpecker wants to peck on my trees he is more than welcome. No, sir! I don't propose to allow any one to disturb that bird as long as he is pecking on this place!"

Mrs. Lawrence then became active. She went to Mayor James C. Lennon and told him her health was being wrecked by that woodpecker.

"I'll see what I can do," said the Mayor, "but I doubt if I have jurisdiction in the matter."

"Who has jurisdiction then?" Mrs. Lawrence asked.

"I would suggest James J. Fleming, the Public Safety Commissioner." the Mayor replied.

Commissioner Fleming had no jurisdiction either, he said. He advised Mrs. Lawrence to go to the Board of Health.

The Board of Health officer said there was no precedent to show how they should act when a woodpecker was pecking on the property of a man who didn't object.

"Maybe the police can help you," they suggested.

Chief of Police Wolf scratched his head and went into deep thought when Mrs. Lawrence called on him. There was no doubt in the chief's mind that the woodpecker was a nuisance, but he told her there was nothing he could do. But he went to the Mayor, and the two agreed that the only way to do was to arbitrate the differences between the families.

"But you'll have to arbitrate with the woodpecker," said the Mayor. "I believe he will resent outside interference and stand pat."

"We might put a muffler on him," suggested Chief Wolf.

"Yes, we might; but Mr. Schaefer wouldn't stand for that," replied the Mayor, and that was as far as the Yonkers city, officials got. So Mrs. Lawrence came to the city for quiet.

"Me have that woodpecker killed?" said Mr. Schaefer last night. "Not for anything! I wouldn't harm that redheaded little rascal, I love to watch him. Then, too, you must remember that this is my property; that is my tree out there, and I suppose I could claim that old woodpecker if I choose to. I'm sorry my little woodpecker has caused all this trouble, but it can't be helped."
Personally, my sympathies are entirely with Team Woody. I'd take a steady dose of "tapety tap!" any day over human neighbors who rev up their boat engine at 2 a.m., set off Fourth of July fireworks that sound like the gates of Hell opening up, throw loud outdoor parties that last until dawn, let their large dog-who-likes-to-bite run loose, and smoke pot in their back yard, thus ensuring that the smell permeates the entire area.

As an aside, marvel at the days when you could march into the mayor's office and demand he kill a woodpecker.


  1. My neighbor used to have a rooster & it was welcome to grow anytime - go Team Woody!

  2. When I owned a house, I had woodpeckers hammering on my metal chimney. I figured if they could find any bugs in there, they were welcome to them. And yes, those were the days, weren't they?

  3. Those were the days, it still hasn't changed much. Now we're in the 21 st century and I would take nature over people anytime.


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