Forest Preserve District of Cook County, Illinois
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Outdoor Manners
Nature Bulletin No. 683-A   June 10, 1978
Forest Preserve District of Cook County
George W. Dunne, President
Roland F. Eisenbeis, Supt. of Conservation

I AM AN OLD TIME COUNTRY LANE -- just a plain dirt road with a lot of ups and downs, built by the pioneers who settled this region. I was abandoned, thank goodness, after those tin Lizzies began to honk and rattle through the country. They didn't like me and I didn't like them.

For more than a century, people went this way on foot, on horseback, and in vehicles drawn by horses or mules. I became well acquainted with many of them and some of their great-grandchildren. They became acquainted with my trees, my wildflowers, the birds and all of my wild creatures. In those days most folks were friendly, neighborly people. They had time to stop, visit, look and listen.

Now I'm surrounded by forest preserves and used only by walkers. Scads of them come in May when the roadside thickets of hawthorns and crabapples are in bloom. Some are mainly interested in wildflowers or in watching birds. Mostly, though, they are hikers, groups of youngsters from camps, or families and picnickers out for a stroll.

Unfortunately, a lot of them do not have what I call good outdoor manners. Some are apparently strangers in the out-of-doors and don't know any better. Others must have had poor upbringing. Many are merely boisterous, careless, and remind me of a sign in a nearby picnic grove which expresses my feelings exactly: Paper, garbage, broken glass, Scattered here upon the grass, Make a fellow scratch his dome And wonder what you do at home.

I get mightily provoked sometimes, especially at the vandals -- mostly female -- who lop off branches laden with blossoms or, in autumn, with gaily colored leaves. I wish I could talk. I'd tell 'em what I heard a teacher tell her class on a field trip: "These forest preserves are yours; and mine, too. They belong to all of us. If I damage or litter them I am hurting your property. If you do that you are hurting mine. In the whole United States there is nothing finer. Here we have a place in the country that the richest man does not have and could not buy. You should be proud of them, protect them, and use them wisely. .

Too many people are what I call "scatterwalkers. " They leave a trail of litter wherever they go. Nowadays almost everything comes wrapped in paper, cellophane or tinfoil, in handy little cans, or in bottles that never decay. Those, as well as facial tissues, are carelessly tossed aside by those people -- both adults and children. Rarely, though, have I seen any well- trained youngster, such as the scouts and camp fire girls, pick wildflowers, mutilate a tree, molest an animal, or do any littering.

I wish everybody had outdoor manners like a family that came sauntering along here last week and stopped for lunch beneath a big white oak. After the boys gathered a lot of dead twigs the man showed them how to build a small fire on a bare place in the road where they toasted wieners, buns and marshmallows. Using paper cups, they drank milk from two cartons carried in his knapsack. Meanwhile they bombarded him and their mother with questions about what they had seen that morning.

After burning the paper bags, cups and cartons, they carefully put the fire out and then, using a dead branch, swept the place where the fire was and even the grass where they sat, so that when they left there was no trace of anyone being there.

If you are that kind of people, come and see me sometime.

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