2017-03-15 / Opinions


by Dan Stiles Wildlife Biologist

Many, many years ago, a couple of friends and I hiked along the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire. There were log cabin huts along the way that contained bunks, canned food, a wood stove and a supply of firewood. There were no locks on the doors, of course, but hikers were expected to resupply whatever they used, and they did. I don’t know for sure, but I’ll bet that kind of unwritten honor system does not exist on the Appalachian Trail these days. Clearly, times have really changed, rather suddenly, I think, and dramatically.

Nowadays I have quite a few keys on a large key ring jangling in my pocket. Trouble is, I don’t remember what locks many of them fit, so I don’t dare throw any of the “unknown” ones away. I do recognize the key for my truck, our house key, the ignition key to my ATV, the key to the gate leading to our cabin, the key to the front door of the cabin, the key to the lock on the barn, the key to the upper cabin that is not yet finished, the key to the riding lawnmower, the key to the side entrance to our property, and several other important looking keys that I don’t remember exactly what lock they fit, nor why they are important, but I’m sure that they very well might be important someday.

The reason for having all these keys is, twice in the past couple of years when I’d forgotten to lock the doors on my truck, in dark of night, a thief rummaged through the interior and stole everything of value. Both times it happened, I resolved to lock my truck before dark, and for the most part I have. Visitors at our remote cabin in Morgan County in broad daylight instinctively lock their vehicles before stepping away from them. They are accustomed to the real possibility of theft wherever they park their vehicles.

Our cabin has been robbed a number of times while we were away. Twice, everything of value was stolen – tools, food, clothes – and other times lesser items were stolen. And, my locks did not deter the thieves. They just kicked in the front door. Once when my wife and I were hiking out there, a thief noisily stole our new, metal front gates, tossed them in the back of his pick-up truck, and drove away. From a ridge top, we saw the truck and our gates disappearing in a cloud of dust.

I doubt very much that my Dad carried any keys with him. I’m pretty sure my Grandfather didn’t own any keys. I can’t remember that anything was locked, nor can I remember that anything was ever stolen.

In recent years, however, everyone has learned to lock up everything of value, and hope for the best. And, most folks are aware that there are all kinds of sophisticated cameras and alarm systems available for use both inside and outside homes and businesses. Our daughter who lives in California visits us now and again, and she is alerted whenever her dog “sitter” or anyone else enters her home. It seems to me that everyone has developed a defensive mentality. I don’t understand exactly why this has happened. That’s partly why old people often wish out loud for the return of the so-called “good old days.”

Now, Dan’s sermon. Older folks remember when many major and minor verbal agreements of all kinds were finalized with a warm handshake. There were no “loopholes” nor paperwork of any kind. There was such a thing then known as an honor system, and it worked remarkably well. The majority of people we knew were trustworthy, and then some, in the good old days. The number of keys I carry in my pocket these days serves as a reminder that times have indeed changed.

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