Your Duty to Your Neighbor
WHO is my neighbor? In the country of my youth, the farmers, mindful of line fence disputes, were wont to say, "The next but one." If my memory of Holy Writ serves me fairly, he is any one whose life my life touches directly or remotely.
In the woods he is the man who comes after me to-morrow or next year or next generation. How much thought do we take for his comfort or pleasure?
Two of us were riding down a trail in Colorado with a ranger. Thirty feet below a trout stream foamed down its steep bed from a mountain lake. At a turn of the trail a thin column of smoke drifted up from the gorge where the stream ran. We dropped our reins over our horses' heads and climbed down to find a fire burning merrily at the base of a big fir that leaned across the stream. Our only pails were our hats but we carried water enough to put out the fire.
Evidently some ignorant or careless fisherman had found the roots of this old tree a good background for his luncheon fire and had gone his way with not enough thought for his neighbor to put out his fire. Above the trail a long, steep hillside covered with charred logs among which the second growth scrub was springing bore testimony to the careless building of fires in times past.
Another time we came late in the afternoon to a camping place on a Minnesota lake. It had been raining all afternoon and we were wet and cold and tired. The prospect of a wet camp did not particularly allure.
Close by the dead ashes of other fires we found a neat pile of dead pine and birch left by the last voyageur over that portage. His little act of thoughtfulness turned what threatened to be a dreary night into a very pleasant one. I do not know our neighbor's name or whether he was white or red, but the first chance I have I'll mention the incident to St. Peter as proof that the human race is not wholly unregenerate.
Recently the newspapers have told of farmers who were hostile to automobile campers because of the litter of papers and tin cans that too often mark the campsite. Such campers are not good neighbors either to their farmer hosts or to other campers.
Have you friends to whom you lend outdoor gear with a sinking heart, conscious that it will be returned to you worth somewhat less than when you last saw it? Are they good neighbors? Are there men with whom you hesitate to go on trips, knowing well that half their outfit will have to be supplied from your own pack after you are on the way? There are many such. Have you played games with men who groused at losing and were not unwilling to win by means not quite contemplated in the game itself? If not, you're lucky.
But any of us can be good sportsmen and good neighbors to the rest of the world. And after all those are the things that count.
Outing , Publishing Company. Outing. New York: Outing Publishing Company, 1920.
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