Leaving a Trail

The Best Fence


I have one fence. It is three-foot chicken wire attached to steel posts. Its main purpose—to keep the rabbits out of my garden. The fence was a success until July of last year. One industrious bunny found its way inside! Leafy green beans suddenly turned to sad stubs barely poking out of the ground.

Growing up on the farm, I don’t ever remember rabbits being a problem; likely Rex handled that. But we had several kinds of fences. A decorative, sort of crimped wire lined the front and side of the house yard. The curved top of the metal fence formed pretty scallops. At the corners it joined woven wire, which completed the enclosure. The fence formed a boundary around the house, clothesline, garden, outhouse and the lawn. Behind the garden was a gate big enough for the tractor and cultivator.

Inside that fence I felt secure and warm, no matter what time of year. It was home. It is believed that childhood memories begin around age four. Must be true because I cannot recall a time when that yard fence ever kept ME in. A sidewalk led from the stoop to the front gate where a curved wire bar fit into a notch, forming the latch. Even small hands could push that bar in, opening to the wondrous world beyond.

A short hike toward the barn, led to another fence that enclosed the barn yard. Two-by-eight boards nailed to thick wooden posts kept livestock in. (Mostly.) I loved this fence. No matter how short I was, I could scope out the scene inside. Knee high to a grasshopper, I peeked between the boards. Later, king of the mountain, I stuck my tongue out at Wooly Bully, my feet on top of the middle board and elbows resting on top. “Nah, nah, nah, boo boo, you can’t get me!”

Other times my heart pounded in fear as I heard a horrible crack—a duel between the fence and the mamma cow’s head. The boards held fast as Delmer or Donald scrambled over the top in the nick of time.

Around the hog pasture, woven wire kept snoopy flat snouts from entering forbidden territory. A strand of barbed wire ran along the top. Hmmm. Wish I could ask Dad or Don what that was for.

Still another kind of fence girded the pastures and fields—barbed wire. Three or more strands of the prickly stuff kept cattle in or out. It was a challenge to push down on the bottom wire, (between the barbs) and slip between without tearing your shirt. Those with long legs could push down on the top wire and step over.

The barbed wire formed boundaries between fields. Badgers and gophers enjoyed digging in the undisturbed soil. Fence building and repair happened after snow melt, but before planting time. Dad was a stickler for strong corners. He said they were the most important part of the fence. Delmer recalls digging holes with the hand auger, then chopping around the edges to make the hole bigger for the thick railroad ties. Finally, they would tamp around the post to pound the dirt down and hold the corner in place.

Farmers in those days worked hard to build strong fences and keep them in repair. No one wanted to hear the frantic call, “there’s a calf out!” which required immediate action, no matter the time of day or the weather conditions.

A rabbit in my garden also requires immediate action, though by the time I see the varmint, he has likely decimated the beans, peas and sweet potatoes. Barbed or woven wire wouldn’t keep him out. Certainly not a wood fence or strong corner posts. As I work up a spot for lettuce and spinach, I consider what else I could do to keep rabbits out. Images of Mr. McGregor and Elmer Fudd hop into my mind.

Columnist DeAnn Kruempel grew up near De Smet, S.D., and has lived in North Dakota and Iowa all her adult life. She now lives near Logan, Iowa, and can be reached at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com.

Fill Easter Baskets with Smiles!

Do you know someone who would smile at the memories? Putting On the Big Boots, Back to Forward, and Once Upon a Midwest Sunset, compilations of the stories from the author’s columns, along with her Promises to Keep series, are available on Amazon. Signed copies can also be purchased at the Harrison County Welcome Center AND the Loess Hills Visitor Center & Gift Shop in Moorhead. All are Easter Bunny approved! Contact her at deannkruempelauthor@gmail.com.