Twenty-five years ago my wife, our Lab, and I moved to Dallas from a restored 200-year-old log cabin that overlooked a farm pasture in Pennsylvania. After our first day surveying residential real estate here, we were ready to move back.
Then we stumbled upon Forest Hills, an oasis of trees in the stifling Dallas desert. It had old and new houses with large yards and architectural details that distinguished one home from another. As we drove under the canopy of branches leading to 8212 San Cristobal Drive, we felt like Dorothy when she and Toto landed in Oz. We couldnâ€™t be in Dallas anymore. Actually, we were 15 seconds from White Rock Lake, 10 minutes from downtown, and 15 from SMU where I would work. How perfectâ€¦proximity amidst a primeval forest.
When we peeked out the French doors leading to the back yard, our enthusiasm bubbled over. A turquoise pool shimmered beneath a green dome of nature. It made the area 15-20 degrees cooler on that hot summer afternoon. And all we could see were trees. No back yards or rooftops of other houses. It was as if we had never left the Pennsylvania countryside. We ready to sign on the dotted line.
Then the peaceful scene was shattered by a distant, loud whistle, not once, but three times. A slow-moving train â€“ very slow - chugged across the luscious green landscape that had mesmerized us moments earlier. Susan and I looked at each other and winced. Maybe this house was too good to be true. We told the realtor we would think about it.
We bought the house. We learned shortly after our arrival that Forest Hills was one of the best-kept secrets in Dallas. It still is, though maybe not to as great an extent as in 1988. People who have lived in Dallas all their lives still give us quizzical looks when we mention we live in Forest Hills. â€œIs that near Forest Lane?â€ they usually ask. We have not seen another neighborhood in Dallas where we would rather live.
And the â€œterribleâ€ train? This story is actually one of the few times since we moved in that I have given it any thought. If potential buyers of property on the south side of San Cristobal are concerned about the noise of the train, donâ€™t be.
The â€œworrisome quakeâ€ is actually rather soothing because the train always crawls, barely 15 miles per hour. Most of the time we either wave to the conductor or donâ€™t even notice it. The train whistle sounds, at most, a couple of times in a day, usually when I am at work. And it comes from the distant intersections on either end of San Cristobal, never right behind this house. In 25 years, the train has never woke me up. I wish I could say the same for leaf blowers and chain-saws on weekend mornings.
In these growingly impersonal, fearful times when people live next to each other seldom interact any more, Forest Hills is an a throwback to the days when:
â€¢ Kids played on the streets without fear.
â€¢ Neighbors stopped to chat with each other while walking their dogs.
â€¢ Neighborhoods organized parades, parties, and other social events every Fourth of July, Halloween, Christmas, and other holidays.
â€¢ Neighbors looked out for each other, not just when someone on their block was out of town, but 365 days a year.
This all may sound corny or like a chamber of commerce sales pitch, but Forest Hills is different in more ways than just its bounteous trees and beautiful homes. As I finish this, I think of all my family would have missed had we let a slow-moving train with an occasional whistle prevent us from buying our house on San Cristobal.
8212 San Cristobal Drive