"Papa, you recall what we did when that old cow stayed next to us all night?"
"Come firstlight, we milked a bit of her. So you could have a cup of fresh warm milk for breakfast. And I could have a spoonful for my coffee."
"Was that stealing, Papa?"
"Not hardly. Were it my cow, I'd share with others. And we didn't take but a glass. It weren't as though we stripped her dry." (3.96-99)
When you need help (or when you need a quick cup of milk in the morning), you can reasonably expect a little help from your neighbors. Is this idea unique to Papa in the book?
"Then it isn't like war."
"It's a peaceable war. If I know Benjamin Franklin Tanner, he'd fret more than me if his cows found my corn. He'd feel worse than if it was the other way round."
"He's a good neighbor, Papa."
"And he wants a fence to divide his and mine, same as I do. He knows this. A fence sets men together, not apart." (3.17-20)
Part of being a good neighbor, to Papa, is making sure that you have structures in place to keep you and yours out of your neighbor's area. Sure, maybe bringing some brownies over once in a while will win you points, but generally, Papa thinks you should give people their space.
"Well, you be friends with Mr. Tanner. Neighbors and all. But we keep this fence up like it was war. I guess that humans are the only things on earth that take everything they own and fence it off."
"Not true," Papa said.
"Animals don't put up fences."
"Yes, they do. In the spring, a female robin won't fly to a male until he owns a piece of the woods. He's got to fence it off."
"I didn't know that."
"Lots of times when you hear that old robin sing, what he's singing about is…keep off my tree. That whistle you hear is his fence." (3.7-12)
Papa says that fences—that is, rules and boundaries to keep people's business separated—are not only useful, but natural. And hey, Shmoop likes birds as much as the next person. If the robins do it, it's definitely good enough for us. (Except for the whole pooping on people's heads thing.)
"We thank you, Brother Tanner," said Papa. "But it's not the Shaker Way to take frills for being neighborly. All that Robert done was what any farmer would do for another. It don't add up to payment or due." (3.39)
Okay, so they keep a respectful distance, but at the same time they're careful to be neighborly, lending a hand when needed (even if that hand ends up being bitten by an angry cow). Sound complicated? Well, in A Day No Pigs Would Die, it's all just part of the bargain.
"Is that really your little girl in the coffin?"
"It is, Robert. And if it's all right with you and your pa, I'm going to bury her in Hillman land. With a Hillman name."
"I guess that's proper," I said, and sort of went off to sleep. (8.63-65)
Hillman is setting things right by finally claiming the dead baby as his own, accepting her publicly into the community of his family. By not owning up to the relationship initially, he had committed a sin against God, yes, but also against the rules of the community. Double whammy.
"There's talk about a new county road," Papa yelled to me in the raining, "and they say it's wide enough to cut the corner of the churchyard at the Meeting House."
It's not just that Hillman will be desecrating a grave, but that he's going to desecrate "what's ours." Looks like community remains important even after death.
"Shameful. Them two living under the same roof, without benefit of clergy. You know well as I what's going on in that house, right under our very noses."
"Maybe," said Mama, "our noses are where they shouldn't be." (9.5-6)
Just like Papa with his fences, Mama thinks that keeping on your own side of the boundary lines is a major factor in being a good neighbor. Do Mama and Papa generally share the same opinions about community? Are either of them a part of a community that the other is not?
"Haven says he's a worker. And I say the Bascom place never looked better. She couldn't of done it alone, run that farm. Life ain't easy for a widow woman."
"Easy's the word for her."
"What goes on under a neighbor's quilt is nought to me," said Mama. (9.16-18)
The community may have strict rules about the proper behavior of a widow and her hired man, but to Mama, the rule of minding your own business comes first. Way to be a stand-up lady, Mama. We know it's tough.
When I jumped out of the oxcart, and Papa was turning Solomon for home, all he said to me was one word: "Manners." (10.9)
Seems like manners are pretty important to Papa. And what are manners but rules for how to interact with the rest of your community?
"I'll send the boy for his pig," Papa said, "and we're beholding to both you folks, Brother Tanner."
"We to you, Haven. I got offered five hundred for my yearling oxen. Five hundred dollars, and not even half growed. Thanks to your boy who helped born 'em, and work 'em at the Fair." (11.9-10)
Thank you! No, thank you! No, thank you! These farmers sure are polite, aren't they? Shmoop guesses it's all about successful community building—nobody likes to do favors for someone if they're not going to be gracious about it afterward, right?