Being a Good Neighbor in the American Redoubt, by 11Z

Nobody can do it all by themselves so being a good neighbor is important. It keeps the peace and strengthens the community, both of which are no doubt important to readers of this blog. In the interest of bringing in some helpful solicitation from other readers, here are some thoughts about being a good neighbor. It’s presented for community consideration. Please bear in mind that I’m not a community organizer with an Ivy League degree and political aspirations so forgive any lack of such credibility. I grow up in the National Redoubt and retired here after years of living all over while chasing my dream of being a grunt.

A few years ago while overseas, a Special Forces Medic once told me that “…the art of conversation is lost, now bite on this because this is going to really hurt.” The last bit isn’t the important part. The gem about conversation is important. So, let’s start with that.

Don’t Overshare

It’s in poor taste to overshare those personal religious, political, or activist views with someone we’ve just met. After all, we are neighbors now, and there’s no rush to risk bias or offense in the process of making an initial impression. Since we have only one chance to make a first impression, make it the best one we can. Given time, we may get that chance to pray together in an ideal community that we desire, so let’s not rush anything.

Don’t Be Nosy

Good manners dictate that we don’t be nosy. Let’s face it; people are naturally curious about the people around them. There are boundaries that we must respect. Privacy is a precious commodity in any community. In my area there are quite a few “No Trespassing” signs, because there is so much public land that you must post your private property to keep it segregated. Unfortunately, this has the opposite effect, as people don’t pay attention to the signs any more. On the other hand I’ve seen copies of threats to public officials that will probably do more harm than good posted at the end of a driveway. It’s been said that no man is an island.

A Friendly Wave

Whether living in the city or country, it’s always a good idea to wave at people as we pass in the hallway or the road. It’s an ancient custom that has meaning today. A hand without a weapon is an act of friendliness. Friendly waving is also a security measure. Bad actors typically don’t wave, and if they do it’s an awkward gesture once people take note of them. Obviously, it’s a good way to break the ice, because we’re more inclined to start that first chat with someone who does wave. I have an elderly neighbor who was also in the military. He makes a point of waving at every car that passes by. He’ll take the time to have a friendly conversation. He’s also a great source of information. Once we established rapport he showed me a detailed sector sketch of our area with the names of all the property owners. I’ll watch his home and property while he is out of town, and he drives the back roads keeping an eye on things. This all came about because of a rash of burglaries. With a bit of effort based on his initiative, good neighbor relations and a bit of effort we were able to deter the criminals.

Introduce Yourself

As people move in around me I make a point of introducing myself in a friendly manner and openly armed. I typically wait for new neighbors to start building on the land so there aren’t any false starts. More than once I’ve met people who misrepresented themselves and never saw them again. I offer some farm fresh eggs and my phone number if they would ever like my assistance. I am discreetly sizing them up as well and I can tell if they are aware or oblivious to my estimation. Situational understanding usually means mutual respect. Apathy almost always leads to problems between us. I’m armed because word gets around. Criminals will look for a softer target.

A Gem

Now that we are chatting so enjoyably with our new neighbors let’s consider another gem. Few things destroy community faster than drama. It’s never, ever a good idea to visit a spouse of the opposite sex in their home while the other spouse is away no matter how innocent. I have some interesting stories (not involving me) on this note, and I won’t share today because you also have some interesting stories on the same topic and the outcome is usually the same.


No gossiping. Let’s discourage gossip by changing the subject when it begins. If you don’t trust yourself with alcohol don’t even start drinking during a visit.


Consideration for neighbors goes a long way. Build a noise baffle for that obnoxiously loud generator. Stop the heavy machinery at a reasonable time. 10:00 PM is reasonable by the way. It may be your perception that you are alone and its fine to blare that stereo or karaoke late into the morning hours. It isn’t. People elect to live in the country for the quiet among other things and encroaching is not welcome. It’s not helpful in an apartment building either.


Control animals and make it right if they do damage. Animals are the owner’s responsibility and there is not always a dollar limit on other people’s possessions.

Share Ownership of Community

Share ownership for your community. Plow a bit extra for your neighbor, or at least clear that driveway entrance you just blocked with snow plowing. Be prepared to fight fire or bark beetles together in the dry months to protect your homes and property. Plant something that augments what the neighbors are planting. Be sure that you all like the items you are growing in abundance, so you have a variety of items to trade with extra for storage. Contribute to any shared expenses such as gravel for the shared road that the county can’t take care of. I’ve found it helpful to send a thank you note to the Sheriff after being impressed with the professionalism of a deputy. Respect the time of the Peace Officers and try to handle trivial situations first with maturity. Also, join the neighborhood watch community or volunteer with the fire department. Learn about the local charities and contribute. Even used clothes go a long way for someone who needs them. When you see a car on the side of the road offer to help if you can. It’s best to slow down and make eye contact if you don’t want to stop. They will wave you on, if they are fine.

Responsible Shooting and Carrying

Responsible shooting is welcome. I don’t have much confidence that my new neighbors can shoot safely in the dark, however. I dislike having to point out that shooting into the wood line and road are not safe.

In my part of the world men and women carry openly or concealed, and it’s as common as wearing a ball cap. You may already know that people tend to be on their best behavior when firearms are involved. Once while sitting in front of the laundromat in town some thugs with out-of-state plates parked next to me. “What the **** are you looking at?” They didn’t realized I was armed and for whatever reason wanted to intimidate me. I’m sure they interpreted my lack of verbal response incorrectly. When we carry a weapon, we are also on our best behavior, because of that particular responsibility. Also I don’t talk while calculating tactics, as a habit I must have picked up somewhere. We never know who we are dealing with. Use those good manners Grandma taught us, and we won’t go wrong with strangers.


Drive the speed limit. Sure, we pay taxes for those roads, but it’s time to get up to speed. Living in the country means longer commute times. If we find a three mile line of traffic behind the car then safely pull over and let them pass. When we delay traffic without good reason, it tempts drivers to take chances to get where they have to be. Sometimes this is with disastrous results.

Shopping Local

Shop local and use cash. In this part of the world, people know each other by name in the post office and diner. There is more personal interaction when we use cash. Since we don’t have a local newspaper, it’s a pleasant way to collect intelligence. It’s surprising what a cashier knows and is willing to share.

Peace Making

Sometimes things just don’t go well, and it’s time for peace making. Do not become emotional and make hasty decisions that you may regret. Be the better neighbor, once you are sure you can deal with a situation calmly then try to interact face to face. You miss a good deal of nonverbal communication otherwise. Approach this with a sincere intent to forgive. Be graceful and be prepared to learn that you are completely in the wrong. Be tactful and firm about your position, if you are clearly wronged. Excuse yourself and leave if you have to avoid a fight. Don’t make threats or give away any planned counter measures, if something isn’t going to be made right because you lose the initiative. If nothing can be done to make peace and reestablish good relations, then conflict avoidance is a good strategy over escalation. Forgiveness is even more important now.

Offended / Forgiveness

Perhaps we have offended. It’s time to listen, apologize, ask forgiveness, and offer to make things right. Once the offer is accepted then follow through. Make sure it doesn’t happen again.

I propose that we consider being a good neighbor a perishable skill and practice it daily as with any survival skill. It’s a skill that becomes the ultimate force multiplier. The beauty of being a good neighbor is that it applies to all situations and much more so during times of crisis.

In summary, the golden rules still hold true. Be the neighbor you want to have and build the community you value.

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  1. Solid advice, I would add as a sub category to gossip, to remain neutral in other neighbors problems that they need to work out. Taking sides can place yourself into a social “click”. A Jeffersonian philosophy is best here, do not become embroiled in other’s (foreign) conflict.

  2. Being a good neighbor is understanding the next guy down the road does not worship your dog. Keep them under control and quiet unless there is trouble brewing.

    1. Dogs… In decades of rural living (in 3 states) 4 major incidents with neighbors come to mind, ALL involving dogs. 2 incidents over continuous barking at night. 1 over a neighbor’s dog coming onto our property and attacking our dog. 1 over a neighbor’s dog strewing our rubbish. Only 1 of the 4 dog owners apologized and took responsibility to ensure that it never happened again.

      And while we were not involved, the anguish and strife over dogs killing neighbors’ chickens, goats, wild birds and animals on the neighbor’s property is too much to bear. Again, most of the dogs owners did not respond responsibly.

      The vast majority of dog owners lived there long before their new neighbors moved in. I’ve see more resentment than respect for new neighbors. It’s as if seniority gives them a bye from acting like equals.

  3. Many nuggets of wisdom here.
    It is my experience people do not typically move to acreage to be socially active so baby steps are important for both neighbors.
    Our grandparents had it right when they used to say “a friend in need is a friend indeed”. Our true stripes come out when things get tough. Establishing that relationship prior to a test makes a lot of sense.
    Supporting local business is important too. Local gun shops, restaurants, grocery and hardware stores in our community are under a lot of pressure from national chain stores.
    Thank you for the great reminders.

  4. The real trick is to be a good neighbor even to a bad neighbor. To maintain your belief and actions in the face of those who act as though they believe the exact opposite. It is still the right thing to do but just more difficult.

  5. Excellent article. Living in a small community it is very important to help each other.
    We have had 3 days of heavy snow, and now the power is out. But all the neighbors are out with their snowblowers and shovels trying to keep the road open.

    Always check on your elderly neighbors to see if they need help, food, and too keep warm.

    Winter is not over

  6. A friend once told me the secret to being accepted in a small town is , first time in town go to the chamber of commerce and introduce yourself, once you move there join the American legion ( if you are eligible ) and the Volunteer fire department. in most small towns the city fathers belong to these organization and it’s a good way to make friends and be accepted. I have not moved to a small and tried it but it sounds reasonable. Also if you are moving to get away from some attitudes or biases DO NOT bring those attitudes with you and if you love all the things you left you should have stayed there.

  7. As a side note. Your interactions with the locals will make a name for yourself , good or bad. So, be friendly and if there is a small restaurant be sure and be polite with the workers and tip fairly. They are not your slaves but just folks trying to make a living. It’s truly amazing how rude or curt some people are to those in the service arena. Also try and learn the culture. If you came from the city ” to get away from it all” don’t try and recreate what you’re used to or criticize how people do things in your new place. It comes off as being a snob. Observe, listen and learn.

    1. I know the people in the small towns near me work very hard and have seen how discouraged they become with non-locals when our visitors are rude, mocking or even insulting with tips of just a few cents after being given excellent service. The friendliness and open acceptance by people of the American Redoubt is a joy that is great to be a part of. Thanks for your comment.

  8. 1. ALWAYS, always, always put the fence up before the animals arrive. Always. We’ve seen this both ways, by first underestimating how quickly our new hens would cross the road (into the neighbor’s mulch) when the fence wasn’t finished, having many animals killed by the neighbor dogs, and chasing down horses that the idiot neighbors thought would “just stay” in their unfenced pasture.

    2. LISTEN to the folks who already live where you are, even if you don’t agree. We had a new neighbor come in and start target shooting. That would be fine, except the houses are closer than what is recommended for using firearms, even if he does live on 17 acres (it’s a narrow piece). We told him it wasn’t recommended to shoot, but he didn’t listen. I don’t mind that he is a good 2nd Amendment guy, I mind that someone might call the cops on him because they know the houses are too close; then we have a microscope on our whole area due to an ass who ‘knew better.” (And law enforcement pays no attention us now because they have no reason.)

    3. If possible, relocate to somewhere you have family ties, no matter how distant. Then go to the county courthouse and do some genealogy. In one day, when I was trying to get marriage certificates on grandparents and parents, I visited three county clerk offices, and it turned out I knew someone — or they knew my family — in each one. Instant connections, instant cred. And it was a nice feeling.

  9. I don’t live in the “redoubt” and have no plans to move there. I am a daily reader of SurvivalBlog and have been for years. I appreciate many of the articles and commentary here. Something about this article rubs me wrong, it seems the author is lecturing others on how he/she thinks life should be in his/her neighborhood. Well, I have news for this writer; unless you own all of the property around you, you really don’t get to tell a new neighbor how to live. Carrying a weapon openly seems to be an intentional tactic to intimidate and it certainly wouldn’t be appreciated by me, nor would I be impressed. I am a mature man of age and completely understand rules of etiquette and respect for others. I adhere to these common sense ideas and don’t need any lectures from a neighborhood busybody .

    1. Actually read the article and you’ll see that he said open carry was common in the area he was talking about. I guess you missed this sentence from the article:
      “In my part of the world men and women carry openly or concealed, and it’s as common as wearing a ball cap.” So, obviously, it’s a good thing you have no plans to move there.

      The author is not lecturing, but responding to a request made by some readers in the comments on Survivalblog recently requesting an article on being a good neighbor. At least the timing of the article makes me think so.

      If you have a different idea of what makes a good neighbor, you are also free to write your own article and submit it.

    2. I’m sorry that you were offended by my article. I reread it with your criticisms in mind and respectfully disagree with your assertions. A lecture isn’t the intent, it’s culturally how we are. There has been a mass of new people coming into the area recently that fail to understand what we inherently know.

      If you were to come into the area even for a visit you would be welcomed until you proved that you are a nuisance. Even so, I’m not aware of anyone in my area of paradise that tells anyone else how to live on their own property with the exception of the government. This is done with ordinances that are applicable because at some point someone had the idea that they didn’t have to be a good neighbor (noise ordinances). You can be upset with your local government or like us you can keep a close eye and hold them accountable.

      A mature man also knows that the manner in which somebody carries a weapon (or any other tool) on or around his or her own property can be done in a number of ways. To assume it’s only an attempt to intimidate is not culturally realistic in the American Redoubt and is a tell that you are not familiar with the area. I’m sure it’s a different story in your neck of the woods and that can’t be applied here which is the essence of the article.

      Thanks for your comment.

  10. I baked cookies, scones, etc. for fire, police dept, mayors office and irrigation district when we first moved to the redoubt. I still do occasionally and they know me and where I live. I did the same for the nearest neighbors. Such a small investment but worth getting to know others in our small community. Everyone loves to share their knowledge if you have questions on hiking, fishing, hunting, best places to buy this or that. I love our small “neighborhood” (closest is 1/2 mile away).

    1. Thanks for sharing such an excellent example. Overwhelmingly the whole country is covered by young volunteer firefighters and they work for little or nothing in compensation.

  11. Neighbors who think they have open access to your land are the second worst behind those that have uncontrolled dogs. I lost a quasi-good relationship with my neighbor because he constantly crossed property lines with bogus excuses. I finally had to deal with it in a way where he’d never do it again. Getting – and being a respectful neighbor is priceless.

  12. It goes both ways! Who was there first makes no difference in the real world. My BOL came with a good amount of land and some locals hated it as I do not allow free hunting on my property. It took years and a few arrests, but most got over it.

    Open carrying without an obvious reason, can convey the wrong message. Too much like adolescent boys showing off and trying to look like men.

    1. I agree however in my situation it’s not realistic to depend on the Deputies to protect life and property from both Human and animal 24/7/365. It’s even less so if things drastically change for the worse.

      Women out here also carry and it’s interesting to note the comment singled out the men as “adolescent boys’.

      I point out that we’ve been at war for a very long time and there is a huge population of combat experienced men and women who have returned to civilian life. You can’t always gauge that kind of experience by age or outward appearance alone. A good and experienced gun owner can read a person’s body language and habits well enough (and should if carrying concealed or openly in my opinion). Much like an experienced driver can anticipate and avoid a wreck.

      Thanks for your comment.

  13. Generally speaking, when you need a gun, you need it NOW! An assailant is not going to wait for you to run home and get it out of the safe. In some parts of the country, they take their own safety very seriously and do not like to leave it to the whim of another who may not have the same urgency…. And in these areas, some being very remote. The response time for law men may be too long for anything but an ambulance ride or a body bag.
    I personally don’t care for open carry precisely for this reason but I do not become alarmed or fearful when I see one on the hip of a fellow citizen.

  14. A quick tale:
    A young couple bought the overgrown wooded lot next to mine a few months ago. I, waiting for the right opportunity, hadn’t yet spoke to them because they were obviously very busy making a home out of a virtual jungle. One day, a “bad guy” stole a truck with a boat in tow from town and led police on a chase that came right down my road and ended in a crash (dead end road). The bad guy bailed out and ran into the thick woods eluding capture. The cops surrounded the area and decided to wait him out. They went to every home and warned residents of the potential danger. Early the next morning I heard the new neighbors clearing trees and brush with various noise makers. I decided to go say “hi” and made my way through the woods over to our shared fence line. There were at least a dozen adults. Some swinging chainsaws, some dragging brush and some still, mowing, weed eating and preparing lunch. EVERY one openly carrying a black polymer pistol !
    I heard one of the men say “there he is!” I said “no, I’m your neighbor!” I commented on everyone’s obvious attire and turned to expose my own in a nonchalant way.
    I ended up helping them for a couple hours and having lunch with them as well.
    Great bunch of folks and I couldn’t be happier with my new friends !
    The sheriff finally did catch the thief a day later. Walking down the road acting like he was from the area. He wasn’t….. you need a vehicle to get out here jack !

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