Tag Archives: Mother’s Day

Fence May Make Good Neighbors, But Also Creates One Grouchy Fence Builder

The next time you find yourself driving along Interstate 90 somewhere between Yakima and nowhere, look out either window (assuming you are on a nice long straight stretch of highway without an 18-wheeler blocking your view) and take note of what you see. I can tell you right now — besides a whole lot of agricultural nothingness — is a fence. Miles and miles of fence.

I know my sensibilities are a bit odder than most, as I sometimes find myself thinking about things that most other people take little or no heed of — like fences running along the side of the road.

But I don’t spend much time speculating why a fence is so urgently needed where there is clearly no one or no thing itching to get either on or off or even across the highway splitting two horizons of barren Washington terrain. No, I ponder the poor souls who labored countless hours (read days, weeks maybe even months) to construct a barrier stretching for countless miles — no doubt with the intent of keeping some lonely, drought stricken wild animal, delirious with thirst, from seeking the mirage of shimmering water way down the highway. Lot of work to keep one potential critter from becoming the latest roadkill.

The labor needed for such a venture was brought home with a vengeance a few weekends back when I decided — as a Mother’s Day gift to my wife — to replace our hastily constructed chicken-wire fence around the garden plot with a more traditional, sturdy and more or less permanent fence.

The sad excuse of fence currently surrounding the garden is no doubt a serious laughing point to all the wildlife in the area, being only about two feet tall before it got all squashed and bent and contorted by kids, garden hoses, dogs and who knows what else to the point that you’d have to go out of your way to stumble on it in going to and from the garden.

I figured this was a project I could handle, given I wasn’t looking at bordering the back 40 here. As garden plots go, this one is modest. All told, I figured I needed to build 132 feet of fence, gate included. Counting the chicken wire joke we strung up to keep the rabbits from going to town on the garden a few years back, my fence building experience fits neatly on one hand and requires only two fingers, excluding the days in my youth watching my dad build a backyard barrier to neighbors who didn’t even exist at the time (but who later showed up — very prescient of him).

The only other fence of note I’ve constructed was a prefab where all I had to do was properly space a half-dozen posts. To this day, the wife likes to remind me how my “straight” line had a kink in it — to which I will forever link the blame to our then 2-year-old who liked to play with the string line.

But this newest fence was to be built from scratch. No pre-molded sections here. I determined it had to high enough to keep the neighbor’s new dog at bay (the driving reason for a new fence) while still going underground enough to keep rabbits frustrated. It couldn’t be a plank or a slat fence as that would create too much shade on the garden. So I opted for a minimum set of posts (13) with a single horizontal rail of 2x4s running lengthwise to help hold the wire fencing in place.

Three weekends (including a disproportionate amount of Memorial Day weekend), 11 extra trips to both Home Depot and Lowes, one post hole auger rental, several budget revisions, six hours spent unsuccessfully attempting to unearth one beastly boulder, three unplanned layout changes, a mosquito attack, untold amounts of beer, two battles with blackberry bushes, one severely pinched nipple ( … don’t ask …) and a total destruction of a pair of workboots later — and “the project” still is officially only 1/3 the way strung with fencing wire.

So another weekend of stretching wire, hammering fence staples, ditch digging and random bouts of cussing in general await me before I can officially claim my third fence complete. Even with all of that done, I still have to build and hang the gate or the fence will remain just a piece of somewhat ornamental yard fare while remaining completely and totally useless.

Which brings me back to the highway and those miles upon miles of fencing.

My 132 feet of fence will swallow a month of weekends, has blown our family budget for the summer and has most assuredly robbed me of at least 10 years of easy living I could had had at the end of my life. Makes me want to go lay on the sofa just thinking about it. I can only imagine the cost paid to lay those miles and miles of fence running from point A to point B in the middle of nowhere.