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The Luck of Roaring Camp
Listening:  "The Luck of Roaring Camp" by Bret Harte

One of my favorite short stories, an exercise in microsociology whose sentimentality is relieved by a sharp sense of irony.  The only woman in a mining camp dies in childbirth, and the camp adopts the baby.  His presence gradually teaches the ruffians courtesy, hygiene, quiet enjoyment, esthetic sensibility, and (alas) respectability.  No happy ending.

You can read it at

Besides being funny & instructive, this story is valuable to me as a corrective to my philosophical prejudices.  I am skeptical of, and on the whole hostile to, the prevailing view that nature (somehow defined) is a source, or even the source, of moral judgment.  On the whole I agree with the lady in Agee's movie that human nature is something we are supposed to rise above.  However, meditating on this story forces me to concede that our being mammals counts for something.