Respect covers a lot of territory. Today I'm going to narrow it down to respect for private property. This week has been the RAGBRAI bicycle tour of Iowa. It is an annual bike ride from one side of the state to the other. It has thousands of participants and covers a lot of ground. During their week-long ride they stop each night in a pre-determined location where the city has put aside some land to use for them to camp, park their support vehicles, and generally have set up many venues for their entertainment. They also have people along the routes who provide water, other forms of refreshment, food, encouragement, and support. There are volunteer families who donate yard space and house space to the bikers to camp and to use their facilities.
This is great. This would be even greater if the people who participated on these bike rides could all be respectful of the other people along their routes who may not share in their enthusism for bicycling.
A few years ago the path of the ride took them through our community, as it did this week once again. The last time, a friend of ours who lived in the country near the route was shocked upon returning home to find his yard, barn, shed – basically every nook and cranny of his farmstead – taken over by bicycles. Had he offered his home for their use? No. The weather had turned bad and the rain had caused the bikers to pull off the road and take shelter at his farm. They were everywhere. Up in the hay mow of his barn. The one that was about ready to collapse any day. The one that was unsafe for one or two people to be – suddenly was full of people! When our friend asked people to leave, they got angry at him for not being supportive of them.
He asked them, "Where do you live?"
They replied, "Why?"
He said, "Because next week I want to get fifty or a hundred of my best friends and come to your house and hang around your yard."
The person he was speaking to got angry. They just didn't get it.
This week, the ride went right past my son's house – our old house. The road was blocked off to most traffic. My son and husband were trying to haul grain out of a bin at the site. They had to fight thousands of bike riders who feel it is their right not to obey any traffic laws like stop signs, to be able to haul their grain. Trying to do their jobs.
At one point, my husband came back to find people sitting all over the yard in the shade of the trees. He also saw several men going into the corn field. When he asked them what they were doing, one man replied in a joking manner that they were just "going to fertilizer the corn". When my husband asked him where he lived and he replied a city nearby and asked why, my husband replied, "because next week I want to come to your house and fertilize your bushes".
I grew up in town. I grew up with parents who cherished their little square of grass and sidewalk as if it were the only piece of land on earth that mattered. We lived on a corner and I remember how irritated my parents would get if the kids crossed the corner on the way to school, or the newspaper boy cut across the lawn. I was told from the time I was little to stay on the sidewalks and not to go on other peoples' lawns, unless I was invited. This was not just a quirk of my parents, but the code of the neighborhood. We lived in several different neighborhoods and it was the same everywhere. No matter how ratty someone kept their yard, it was still their little piece of the earth and they didn't want your dog coming over to shit on it, or to pee on their flowers… they didn't want your kids tromping on it unless they were over to play with their kids, and you didn't mess with someone elses' stuff.
Respect. Just because we live in the country and you see the wide open spaces does not mean it is property open for public use. We may keep our large lawn mowed and looking nice and you may see a five acre piece of ground that looks like a park, but it is not a park. It is our home. It is our land. It is our field, our crop, our livlihood you're messing with when you tromp out in it to 'relieve' yourself.
Maybe if you didn't act like such assholes we wouldn't hate you so much. Respect. Earn it.*
*I realize like anything else there are some good people who ride bikes and who do obey the laws and who don't trespass. This is not meant for you.