Letter Re: Love Thy Neighbor…Trust No One

Mr. Latimer:

Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking item. For all our concerns about security, it helps to balance these concerns with our neighbor’s viewpoint. We do have a right to buy land and control it. However, the neighbor is thinking more like the Indian of 200 years ago, who only sees the newcomer as a paranoid control freak who is reducing their hunting grounds.

In central Idaho, where my great-grandfather lived and hunted, nobody posted No Hunting signs, and trespassing was not thought of as long as you did no harm, stayed away from people’s stuff, and were willing to stop and chat for a minute. That is, until 35-40 years ago. Drunken, wreckless, out-of-town hunters were a lot of the motivation toward “No Hunting” signs. Next came “liability,” prompted by the insurance company.

When we relocated a decade ago, op-sec required fences and gates. But before the fences were up, we had a minor incidence of theft, which was recovered with the help of a nearby landowner whose son had hosted the thief, and was about ready to ban all visitors of that stripe. This gave us pretext to quickly mount and lock the gates. However, one gate was gently rammed, and the other one took a hit from a 9mm. One of the signs was cut with a chainsaw. Somebody was less-than-pleased. So far, the locals have given no significant trouble, unless we left the gate open for a few minutes (our fault) and they happened by and wandered in. But government agents are another story altogether. Feds, the tax assessor, census, etc. have trespassed many times. We’ve never caught them in the act, but see the tracks, hear the neighbor’s reports of what they’ve said, etc.

Your advice to have a serious, kindly talk with the neighbor is very applicable. He needs to understand that for everyone’s safety, boundaries need to be respected. Yes, his fears of not realizing that he was being watched, are realistic. Being ambushed on your own property is totally possible, even with very stout defenses. (Snipers specialize in this.) However, the focus needs to be on keeping relations with the neighbor on a level where the offending neighbor will not be inclined to shoot the landowner in his own yard, for fear of being shot, prosecuted, or whatever.

We had another neighbor who all but threatened to shoot me for cutting branches off of trees that were obstructing the roadway, which is privately maintained and open to the public, and is our legal and only access. Overall, he systematically made enemies out of everyone in town, liked to sit on his porch with a rifle giving a hate stare when people drove by, allegedly shot in front of one vehicle, etc. Then, he refused to make any eye-contact, would not wave, etc. Being ex-law-enforcement, he knew what he could do without getting caught and arrested. Finally, he sold out–to our great relief.

So yes, the maxim of “love thy neighbor” still applies. Getting better acquainted is a good idea. A soft answer is a great help, along with a good fence and a big stick. – C.