Basic rural etiquette |

Basic rural etiquette

When you move to the country, you will discover new cultures, vocabularies and educational opportunities. As part of the culture, you will discover rules of etiquette that you will need to know, even though they may not apply anywhere else.

Asking a farmer or rancher how many acres they have or how many cattle they own is like someone asking you how much money you have in the bank. You may ask them if they have many acres or if they have big cattle herd. It will then be up to the person to respond as they wish. They might answer vaguely as in, “We are about average for this area.” That type of response tells you that the owner does not want to specifically discuss his holdings and that you have crossed the line into being nosy. If, however, the farmer or rancher wishes to tell the number of acres or the number of cattle, that is his or her prerogative.

When you are traveling along a rural road and come upon a cattle drive, you will want to slow down to nearly a stop. Do not honk! The cowboys who are herding the cows will soon notice your presence. The cowboys may herd the cattle to one side of the road, giving you free passage. Or they might motion for you to continue driving, working your vehicle through the herd. Either way you must continue very, very slowly. Cattle may change course right in front of your vehicle and you must be attentive. Just move along quietly and as unobtrusively as possible. You may end up with a manure souvenir on your tires; it will wear or wash off. It’s part of living in the country.

Taking responsibility for your own actions is one of the keys to country living. Although there may not be leash laws, your dogs cannot run loose all over the countryside. They need to be taught boundaries. Some people do too. Just as your small yard in town was private property, farms and ranches are private. Without permission you cannot trespass. Just because it’s in the wide-open spaces, does not mean it’s open to just anyone.

If you open a gate, close it behind you whether you see livestock or not. They may be just over the hill or the landowner may just prefer the gate be closed. When you build that new log house in the trees, remember to heed the information on not having tree limbs hanging over the roof. If you leave the trees too close to the house and your house burns down, don’t blame the volunteer fire department. One of the most important things you can bring with you on your move to the country is common sense.

Remember your rural neighbors, and their livelihoods, were there before you ever thought of moving to the country. The best way to make your new life miserable is to come in and try to change the area by complaining about dust, noise, odors and such that are inherent with rural businesses.

Before you buy in the country, you will want to ponder the realities of rural living.

Sanders is a national award winning columnist who can be reached through her website at


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