POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, Okla. - Imagine sitting at home hearing the constant onslaught of blasting recorded bird shrieks and actual cannon blasts. That's what the homeowners in a neighborhood near Shawnee are forced to contend with all day, everyday. The farming couple responsible say the noises are simply there to protect their crops from birds, but the neighbors insist it's downright harassment.
The noisemakers show up every fall, controlled by Jim and Deann Smith of Benson Park Pecans. For the past few years, it was only the blaring bird calls. Neighbors said they've repeatedly asked the couple to turn the noise down, and limit the time it's playing so it doesn't disturb the neighborhood quite as much. But immediate next door neighbor Patrice Thomas said pleas have been ignored.
"[Deann] responded that she was really upset that I would even ask her about it," Thomas said. "The very next day they installed cannons out here."
Multiple propane cannons installed for the first time this year go off every minute or so. Neighbors said they start before it's light out, and don't stop until after dark everyday of the week.
"I thought someone was shooting outside at the back door here," Patrice said.
James and Lorna Newman moved into a home nearby four months ago and said they couldn't believe the cannons' when they started going off a couple weeks ago.
"Started about 5:30 one morning and it rocked us all out of bed," Lorna said. "I mean it scared, we didn’t know what it was."
Those around the Brangus Road and Benson Park area said the explosions and loud squawks frighten children (especially those on the Autism spectrum) that live in the area, terrify dogs all through the day, and keep everyone constantly on edge.
"It’s shaking walls, it’s rattling pictures on the walls, and everything," Thomas said.
"You can’t go out and sit on the back patio or anything," Lorna said. "It’s just too loud."
Neighbors from all over, as far away as a mile from farm, have complained to News 4 and the Pottawatomie Sheriff's Office about the constant noises.
"I’ve heard them," said Undersheriff J.T. Palmer. "If I was paying for a piece of property out there, I would be upset."
But Undersheriff Palmer said that after discussing the issue with assistant district attorney Adam, it doesn't look like the Smiths are breaking any laws.
"I can understand why he’s doing it as far as trying to protect his pecan orchard," Palmer said, "but there’s got to be some give and take with the rest of the neighbors out there."
That's not how farmer Jim Smith sees it. In fact, he told News 4 he needs the noises to be even louder.
"We have to go by the crows’ schedule, not theirs," Smith said. "They can’t ask me to lose half my income just because they are irritated. They’re just picking on something just because they don’t have anything else to do apparently."
Smith blames unnamed neighbors for vandalism done to his farm last year, and warns the nuisance could get worse for all of them.
"We could put 209 head of hogs out there," Smith said, "and if they keep digging into my profits in the pecan operation, that`s what we have to do, is diversify."
But the neighbors are sure it's not about profits but retaliation against the whole neighborhood for the vandalism, and an effort to force people out of their homes and away from the Smith's farm.
"[Smith said] if we didn’t cooperate with him he was going to put a hog farm in front of our house to drive down property values," Thomas said. She recalled Smith telling her they would all have to pay. "We asked him to please leave our property, and he went over and turned up the bird guard as loud as it would go."
Thomas said she just wants compromise on both sides, so that he can take care of his farm while those who live nearby can have peace at their home.
"We can respect each other and get along and we just want him to do the same for us," Thomas said.
The undersheriff said the best course of action would be for the group of disgruntled neighbors to band together and file for an injunction in district court. Landers said if the district attorney can't take action on the noise as harassment, he agrees a civil lawsuit will be necessary.
"He has no regard or no respect for anybody else’s property," Landers said. "We’re going to have to put an end to it somehow."