Irene was so upset she was shaking, but she did not lose it.

"This is NOT an emergency," she began when she reached the switchboard at the South Salt Lake police department. "But I was wondering if you could send an officer to my home? My neighbor and I have a dispute."

The dispute was over leaves. Irene's neighbor figured any leaves that fell off the big tree in her front yard — the tree her daughter planted as a twig when she was 12 that now shades the entire lawn — and landed on his property belonged to Irene, so he would periodically shoot them back over to her side with his leaf blower.

This bothered Irene, a 67-year-old grandmother who lives alone, on a number of levels.

She thought it "seemed mean" to blow them back. ... Her neighbor is a young, strong male. ... She couldn't be sure they were all her leaves, she wanted to run a DNA test to see if they were really from her tree ...

... And her disintegrating disc disease doesn't put leaf-raking all that high on her list of enjoyable things to do.

On top of everything else, she wasn't sure it was legal.

She told her neighbor all this and then some, and he told her he was calling the police and she said don't bother, I'm doing it myself.

A short while later, a patrol car pulled up, and a policeman got out.

The officer first approached the neighbor as Irene walked over to the border between their yards and stood there with her face red and her hands on her hips.

The officer asked her to please leave, he would come talk to her next.

After a short conversation, he walked over to Irene's house.

"Your neighbor has agreed not to do that anymore," he said.

He then looked in Irene's garage and saw her rake.

"Why don't I get that rake and clean up this mess for you?" he said. "And I could clean out and repair those rain gutters, too."

Irene melted.

"I was just so very upset when he first came," she said. "'Now I understand road rage,"' I told him, and then, just like that, what he said calmed me right down. It just defused me."

She refused his offer to clean up her yard; just couldn't let him do it. But by this point the leaves were no longer the point.

"It was just the offer," she said. "He was in his uniform, and he was going to go get the rake and clean up my lawn.

"I started to cry. I didn't cry when I was fighting with the neighbor, but when he offered to do that I did."

Before leaving, the officer told Irene that he had no idea what the law is about blowing leaves, and then he handed her his card.

"Let me give you one of these. I have a huge box and I never get to give them out," he said. "Please call if you need anything or if you change your mind about those leaves."

She looked at the name on the card: "Frank Fisher, patrol officer."

"I'm going to call your captain and tell him what you did," she called out.

The squad car drove off, and Irene went to her phone and called the South Salt Lake police department.

"This is NOT an emergency," she began.


Lee Benson's column runs Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Please send e-mail to [email protected] and faxes to 801-237-2527.