Don't come around here no more/Whatever you're looking for/ Hey! don't come around here no more/ Stop walking down my street/ Who do you expect to meet?/ Whatever you're looking for/ Hey! don't come around here no more.

-Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers

I was out in my yard, removing sod, and prepping the ground for some light masonry work the other day when one of my manly neighbors called out from his porch,"Rhonda honey, need some testosterone?"

He clearly phrased it as a question, but my response was to misinterpret it and inquire, "Why? Do you need to borrow some?"

I don't think he was insulted; he laughed anyway.

This was the same neighbor who'd casually asked me recently, "you think I ought to shave my back?"

I paused at my front door to consider a second before answering, "Nah. Get it waxed."

(The logistics alone of shaving one's own back are enough to flummox me, hence my recommendation. And I'm proud to say that thanks to my genetic origins of Scotch, Irish, and Native American, the Reeves clan is not an especially hirsute breed. If you believe in stereotypes, odder still is that we are also not drunks. So I guess you can't always count on genetic bigotry. Go figure.)

The point I was making to the neighbor, politely, was that, generally speaking, I can take care of myself.

I grew up as the only girl in a generation full of dozens of male cousins, all of them older than me-BIG guys-all ended up at about 6'5" or more (my size is an anomalous recessive throwback), and if I hadn't had an instinct of self-preservation, I would never have survived their endless torments. I also have a brother, and then later, stepbrothers.

The only real rule they had to abide by (still do, in fact) was that they couldn't punch me (chivalry prevailed). If they DID find themselves unable to resist punching me, for some reason, they were especially not supposed to hit me in the face or stomach (some concession to my femininity I guess). Other than that, all bets were off, and consequently I did get kneecapped pretty regularly.

Although I hated them then, there are times now when it comes in handy to call up their chronic refrain from childhood, which was, "Shut up. Be a Man!!!"

I mention all this as preface to the DEFCON 1 status ("DEFCON 1 Maximum force readiness.") that has now been declared at the palatial Reeves manse and grounds.

For comparison's sake, during the Cuban Missile Crisis, the U.S. Strategic Air Command only went to DEFCON 2, and that was for the first time in history (if my creaking liberal arts degree serves me), so it's entirely possible that I am hyperbolizing here.

This militarization status came about after a couple months of low-key stalking, that ultimately escalated to vandalism and assorted petty crimes, and even a relatively low-speed O.J. Simpson-like car chase up and down city streets, a few interstates, and then numerous country back roads somewhere north of East Jesus. Unfortunately, there's more than one predator at work here, and I sometimes lose track of who did what.

Up till now, I've always good-naturedly accepted a certain amount of harassment that goes with any job where you take positions on everything from food to gardening to sex to politics. It goes with the territory, and I signed on voluntarily; I wasn't drafted.

But when I wake up to property destruction, or come home to uninvited strangers camped out on my front porch, well...then I get angry...And you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

Both my lawyers and my fine friends in blue have questioned the wisdom of writing about people who are clearly a few bricks shy of a load, but I figure there are two ways to deal with a cockroach. You either turn up the lights, and watch them skitter back from whence they came.

Or you exterminate them.

It only seems fair to start with the first.

And there again, I'm hyperbolizing, because if one of these clowns' bloated flyblown corpses should turn up in an abandoned rock quarry, I don't want the Law knockin' on my door. In fact, let me be explicit: I don't even know where any abandoned rock quarries are.

Yes, I freely admit I enjoy a fair share of benefits that accompany the facade of living the life of a petite flower blonde whose most pressing thought involves Manolo Blahnik. Certainly, there are times when it's to my advantage to appear domesticated, tamed, and fully civilized by life in our bucolic little burg. I try not to embarrass my families or my alma maters. I don't show up barefoot at cocktail parties, and I'd give Martha Stewart a run for her money when it comes to selecting an appropriate hostess gift, or a good wine.

But make no mistake. I am precisely ONE and only one generation removed from the hills.

I was raised on a farm, where brutality and the grotesque were part of the everyday. I grew up watching things that my more thoroughbred classmates probably never saw.

I was maybe all of five the night I was with my uncle when we came upon a cow who was trying to give birth to an already dead calf, for example. And to save the mother, he had no choice but to reach inside her, all the way up to his shoulder, dismember the calf with a pocket knife, and hand the remains out to me as he worked-pausing every now and then to take a breath while I wiped off the knife in the grass and sharpened it on a rock. This kinda background is probably not going to inspire Dolce and Gabbana to ask me to endorse their fall line (but then, they weren't anyway).

The thing is, I realize that's not a funny story. There's no punchline. But like I mentioned, I'm angry. (Not violent, just angry.)

That night was sad and desperate and pathetic, and I remember it like it was yesterday. And I think of it whenever some obstacle comes up that seems insurmountable.

I'll go around it, or over it, if at all possible. And if not, I'll just stop, and (metaphorically speaking) sharpen a knife on a rock, like my ancestors before me. I wasn't raised to be afraid and I'm too old to start now.

Invading my privacy is one thing, but endangering my safety-or that of anybody I love-is quite another. So this week, as my grandmother would say, 'I'm handin' out ass-kickin's and lollipops. And I'm fresh out of lollipops.' Figuratively speaking, of course.