You don’t own your home. Don’t believe me? Try not paying your taxes. Your town or city can seize your home, kick you out, sell it, and keep the profit.

You don’t own your possessions either. At least, the ones you put out in your yard. Don’t believe that? Talk to the gentleman in Augusta who had a contractor, hired by the city, tear up his lawn, take everything he had stored there, and even knock down an outbuilding and take everything in it, including his collection of old books. That is just wrong.

“A lot of it had value,” the man told Kennebec Journal reporter Keith Edwards. “They said it had no value, but they didn’t take an inventory. They took it away to get rid of the evidence. This is theft. I’m a historian and a writer. I lost my library of rare books, and a lot of my writing.” The city can even charge the man for the costs of the cleanup.

We have become terribly intolerant. If you don’t like to see the mess on someone’s lawn, why can’t you just look the other way? I see plenty of messy yards in every town. And I recognize that we don’t all have the same standards of neatness. So what?

I used to cut the bushes every year on our front, side, and back lawns, until I learned that they are important habitat for birds. Now our lawn may look a little ragged, but boy, the birds love those ragged-looking places.

Augusta’s code enforcement officer, Robert Overton, told Edwards, “Everything out there — and you name it, it was out there — was clearly junk because of the way it is being stored.” Well, one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

Lucky for my dad that he was neater. Dad was famous for going to the dump empty and returning with a full load of stuff. As Dad’s collection of treasures grew, he built a string of sheds out back to store them in. And I can tell you, there were some real treasures out there. He’s been gone almost two years now and I’m still going through his collections, constantly finding things of sentimental or real value.

If you think you are a free man or woman, think again. You can’t take a ride in your boat without registering it every year, along with your trailer. You certainly can’t drive your car without keeping its registration and inspection up-to-date. Linda just noticed her inspection expired two months ago. So she rushed in to Augusta and got that taken care of. Yes, the state demands, and we must jump to attention.

I can’t even shoot a turkey, essentially a state nuisance, without paying for a special permit, even though I also purchase a hunting license. Sportsmen and women are truly nickle-and dimed to death.

In some communities, they’ve adopted ordinances that even govern the paint on your house and the length of the grass on your lawn. And do you think you own to the pavement or gravel shoulder of your road? Nope. The state or town has a right of way that dips well into your lawn.

I once had to race out to keep the electric company contractor from slaughtering one of our favorite trees that stood in that right of way. And still, they cut some branches, much to my dismay.

Then there is my woodlot up the road. On a lot of it, I can’t cut trees because it’s in a protected bog or too close to the stream. I’m actually OK with all of that, but I do recognize that the town and state are partners with special rights on my woodlot.

Yet they let you wander onto my woodlot, to hunt or fish, or to pick mushrooms and fiddleheads, without asking for permission, unless I put up a bunch of signs to keep you out or require you to ask for permission. A few weeks ago, I was looking out the kitchen window when a guy parked alongside the road, got out his fishing pole to fish the stream, then walked over to our front lawn and helped himself to an apple. Would have been nice if he’d asked first, don’t you agree?

For sure, some of our laws and rules are important to fund the services we value and to maintain a safe environment for all of us. But the state and even some towns and cities relentlessly push the needle way too far into our arms.

Well, to cool down, I’m going for a walk. It’s a nice day outside. And so far, the state doesn’t require us to buy a permit to walk. I might even poke around in my neighbor’s woodlot, to see what interesting items are out there (with permission, of course!).

George Smith is a writer and TV talk show host. He can be reached at 34 Blake Hill Road, Mount Vernon 04352, or [email protected]. Read more of Smith’s writings at

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