Cozy Neighborhood

It was a beautiful day along Hackberry Avenue.

Doug Peek was standing in his driveway Monday afternoon, keeping one eye on his 5-year-old daughter, Grace Rose. Grace was playing with Zeke the cat. She was trying to tempt Zeke with beads and a small orange ball.

Grace explained how she didn't have school today. "I go to school down there." Her finger pointed north and then her hand made a right turn.

Zeke's owner, Leslie Howard, was at home and at peace raking leaves. "This is a great neighborhood. We know everybody. I lived in San Francisco for 10 years and didn't know anyone.

"Everybody has a front porch and talks to one another. That's what's wrong with this country," she insisted. "Nobody communicates."

She knows her neighborhood. She points across the street. "Those are the movie neighbors. They invite me over to watch the Oscars."

Kitty-corner to the north were the plant experts. Kitty-corner to the south was the "Pie Queen."

"She makes great pies."

Norma Christian, the pie queen, has lived here for 11 years. She grew up in Modesto and attended Beyer High School when it opened. During the holidays, she bakes pies for family. Last year her children and seven grandchildren got their favorite pies. This year she is thinking of simplifying and making all pecan pies.

When any of her seven grandsons come over she has one rule: "No TV. I tell them we'll play outside. Last time I taught them how to break and eat a pomegranate."

Christian also bakes pies for Howard and her husband.

It can become a bone of contention. "My husband teaches philosophy at the college," Howard said. "He loves to argue with everyone."

He also argues he should get more than half the pie.

"But I know his tricks and I use them against him," she said. "He doesn't win very often."

Doug Peek watches his wife bury Grace in leaves. Peek loves his home, and he let us in on a secret.

"Most of these homes are straight out of the Sears catalog," he said. "People had to put them together after they were delivered."

Bee staff Writer Roger W. Hoskins may be reached at rhoskins@modbee.com. or 578-2311.