Read with an open mind and open heart

“We seek the truth and print it” is our byword.

Holding to that is more difficult than it appears.

This week, you will find two accounts in our paper of a man’s death on Saturday. Both are true. Neither was easy to write.

One, an obituary, tells the family’s story of its love for Daniel Ricketts.  They describe him as a good man who cared about others and especially looked out for those in his family. His granddaughter was his shining pride. He knew how to hold her and burp her.

He worked a night shift for years so that he could spend his days helping his mother maintain the family farm. He taught his niece how to hunt, and she described her love for him with tears in her eyes.

His family knew he grew marijuana to smoke himself.  His mother said he got up at 9 a.m. on Saturday morning, after working at his job till 5:30 a.m., to build with friends a hunting shanty on his Saw Mill Road property in East Berne.

The other story, which is also true, is about the sheriff’s investigation into his death. The sheriff said that Ricketts, while riding his ATV on Saturday afternoon, ran into a fine wire that severely cut his throat. The sheriff said the wire was strung to protect his four marijuana plants, and notes there was barbed wire and a spring trap there besides.

We knew as soon as we read an e-mail from a community member, which arrived Saturday before the sheriff’s release, that we’d have to write a story about Daniel Ricketts’s death. It is news.

And we understand that the sheriff needs to release such news and the press needs to cover it.  People area entitled to facts, which prevent the spread of rumor. Sheriff Craig Apple told us this week that he acted on a tip that there was more pot but a helicopter look on Tuesday found none.  He also told us there was never any suspicion that Ricketts was dealing drugs.

Still, Apple wanted to warn the public that helicopter flights will be checking the whole county for marijuana this month, and he particularly warned against growers setting traps that could hurt others.

Family members who frequently visited Ricketts said they didn’t know about any strung wire.

“The family would rather this man be remembered for all the good that he did,” Ricketts’s niece told us. They were most hurt by the comments posted on media and social media venues. One such comment his sister quoted with both rage and resignation in her voice: “That’s why they call it dope.”

Another, on the Baltimore Sun website, which had run a wire-service story, said, “More fishing line regulations are needed.” Still another said, “There’s a really good Saturday Night Live skit in there somewhere.”

We don’t publish anonymous comments on our website or in print. Such unfounded comments are not news and are not truth.

Here’s what we’d like our readers to think about as they read these two stories: No family is immune from hurt; we’ve covered enough news to know that.

And, finally, the way a man dies does not cancel out the worth of his life.