Saturday, January 28, 2006

Country Justice

I recall a story which was told to me a long time ago over a few beers at a local "lounge" near Rumford, Maine. It sounded like one of those "urban legends" but actually not taking place in an urban setting. It stuck with me all these years like some profound life lesson absorbed.

"There were two single middle-aged men who lived across the road from each other in the sparsely populated woods of Maine. Abe and Bob would wave and say hello to each other almost every day. As was the norm, each neighbor heated his home by use of a wood burning stove. The winters get to be very snowy and bitterly cold up in Maine and as such provisions have to be made, early enough in the fall, to have sufficient fuel to burn. This is important because it is not very enjoyable to have to cut, split and stack wood when the temperature hovers way below the freezing mark. Wood tends to have the consistency of concrete when very cold.
Abe was very conscientious and spent several week-ends of hard labor to make sure he had plenty of firewood. Neighbor Bob, however, spent much less time and thought he could get by with a minimum supply hoping it would be a mild winter.
By February, Abe realized that for some strange reason, his supply was disappearing faster than he had planned. He immediately called the local supply house and at great expense had several cords delivered to ensure a sufficient supply. By the end of February, Abe was shocked to find that once again his supply was disappearing faster than should have been possible and came to the realization that there must be thievery in play.
Justice is hard to come by in the woods especially when it involves "petty" crime. The local constabulary would be insufficient to identify and stop this outrageous violation of property rights.
Abe would have to resolve this problem himself.
He went and retrieved a piece of firewood, shaved a piece off the surface and set it aside on his workbench. He then hollowed out a space inside the wood and cut a stick of dynamite , taking great care to insure that only a quarter of it was used. He placed the segment of dynamite into the wood and glued the surface shaving back into place. To ID this piece of firewood he rubbed one end into the dirt and re-positioned it on his stack.
A week later, sometime in the wee hours of the morning, Abe was awakened suddenly by a loud explosion from across the street which was followed by sirens from the local volunteer fire department.
Abe smiled, fluffed his pillow a couple of times with his fist, rolled over in his warm bed and went to sleep."


Anonymous said...

xsltyhuWell put:


roman said...

I knew you would enjoy this story. Eyeah.

ericswan said...

only a quarter stick eh?

that should have demoed the deal..

Fahd Mirza said...

What is your opinion then, that country justice should be the example to follow everywhere?

Pete's Blog said...


This is an outrageous example of American agrarian rightwing individualism - on the cheap.

Here in Australia we wood have used two sticks :)


roman said...

Fahd Mirza,
You ask a good question. I really did not have an opinion on whether this was a good or bad lesson when I wrote the story. I think that we (as modern civilized people) do not get a sense of satisfaction from our systems of justice when we experience injustice. To me, I seem to have gotten a sense of pure and direct justice from this tale with the benefit of a "feel good" sense.
Your question, however, brings to mind that we must be careful when seeking justice. I cannot recommend
taking justice into our own hands because the "rule of law" has evolved over centuries and by doing this kind of thing we are ignoring the lessons learned throughout history.
It could have also been an action with consequences that are unpredictable and as such considered to be irresponsible. Bob, in the story, might have been killed by the blast. This would have resulted in too heavy a punishment for such a petty crime. Too many things might have gone wrong for this to be a "good" lesson.

roman said...

spooky pete,
Two sticks would have been "overkill" (pun intended) but I know what you 're saying. Sneaky thievery should be dealt with emphatically in order to put a stop to it.

roman said...

Thanks for visiting my site.

DagoodS said...

I took the story as a humerous tale about justice. (Somthing I am intimately interested in.)

Have we reached a point that even small humor must be Politically correct?

I didn't see roman making some deep remark about the flaws of the justic system--but if so, I am willing to come to its defense. :)

Renegade Eye said...

It's an allegory. I used to like Dirty Harry movies. Revenge can make you feel better at times.

roman said...

Yes, it is humor.
It also conveys something more. We all seek redress in different ways when faced by a transgression. In an extreme case where a victim's capacity to tame his/her emotional state is lacking, it may result in revenge as a form of entitlement.

roman said...

renegade eye,
Clint Eastwood and Charles Bronson made a few bucks on the revenge theme. I'm not sure what this means about the human psyche. I guess we all need to see justice done with some sense of closure or finality. I wonder if an injustice that is construed as only partially justified leaves us in a "troubled" state of mind (subconsciously).

Vman said...

a bit cruel but a good story anyway.

roman said...

Who is more cruel?
Abe the victim who got his revenge or Bob who stole the wood and probably would continue unabated even after this episode (unless he figured out what happened).

Fahd Mirza said...

Roman, in some parts of Pakistan and interestingly enough some of them lie in that part where US suspects that Osama is in hiding, tribes have their own justice system. That justice system is more bloodier and outrageous than the country justice described by you.(I wonder whether should we call it a justice at all).

In that eccentric justice system of tribes there is a lawful lawlessness. If one person murders another, it is understood gor granted that the relatives of victims will take revenge and its a part of justice. No case is registered or heard. Even animosities like these carry on from generation to generation. Thank God, there are very very few areas like these in my country.

roman said...

Fahd Mirza,
We here in the US have also had this "vendetta" phenomena between families (tribes). The famous Hatfield-McCoy fued (1878-1892)lasted many years and involved a series of brutal killings which started over silly disputes and family "honor". Curiously, these families lived in the sparsly populated Appalachian mountain regions where (like in the mountains of northern Pakistan) they were left pretty much to settle their own disputes during that time. There were other similar fueds over the years but this practice has been replaced by a stronger sense of civil law and order.

samrina said...


First of all thnx alot for the comment u left at my blog, thats really meaningful :)

Well about the story i wanna say that yeah Bob made a mistake but still the punishment been given to him is much more then of his crime.
Abe can teach him the lesson in other way too. Sometimes by being nice with the mistaken person teaches him/her lesson in much better way.

Anyhow hope u stay in touch :)


Pete's Blog said...

Since Saddam can't buy Australian wheat - you wanna buy some. All answered on mar blog y'all.


Nabeel said...

hmm @ story .. Abe didn't do the right thing.. I understand that country justice is followed by many .. but that doesn't make it right neither does it make the men who follow it smart .. it all depends what you do in what situation.

Abe should have put up a warning sign first .. i mean instead of a dynamite .. i dunno should have put a pointy wire of whatever .. and a note perhaps .. next time would be your last time.