Sunday 6 July 2014

Good Fences Make Good Neighbours.

Good fences make good neighbours.

There is a lot of truth in that old saw. You can like the people who live right next to you, but it is always better if the boundaries both personal and physical are set in stone, wood, wire, metal or any combination.

I am thinking about fences because I have spent a few hours this past week helping my son-in-law build his fence. I doubt I am anything more than and extra pair of hands, but sometimes it’s nice to have an extra pair of hands to help and a face to bounce ideas off of. I helped Brendan build a fence last year and it is still standing, so we must have done something right. Brendan’s fence is big and affords them privacy that they didn’t have before and some degree of security.

The house where I grew up had a small fence between our place and the neighbours. It became more of a hint of a fence over the years, rather than one of security and privacy. Perhaps in that particular situation a large fence wasn’t needed. Now that I think about it, all of the fences in that neighbourhood were relatively tiny, just enough to say “My property begins here.” Fences are after all more of an idea than anything else.

The Chinese built a fence that is called the Great Wall of China. It is so large that it can be seen from space! It was built and maintained over centuries beginning more than two thousand years ago. It has been repaired by numerous dynasties over the centuries. The odd thing about that fence is that it never really kept anyone out of the country. Invaders basically marched right through it as if it weren’t even there. I guess it too was there to say “My property begins here.” It also was a great make work project. Nothing better for a country than to have a large, government financed project to keep the population happy, fed and sheltered.

When we were in England a few years ago, I noticed that the roads would only go a short distance before they turned. The roads were hemmed by stone and fences which had been assembled from stones found in the surrounding fields. When I asked if the roads were like that because they followed the property lines, I was told that when sheep or cattle panic, they will only run straight and once they turn a corner they calm down. That could have been bullshit because the guy that told me was pretty drunk, but I like the concept.

Maybe fences aren’t to keep people out or for privacy at all. Maybe they are there to make us feel better about ourselves. When our ancestors moved out of caves, perhaps they needed “walls” for emotional protection. They only had to defend this small parcel of land, feed the people within and care about those within. Maybe our fences are more imagination than wood stone and metal. Maybe…

I just know that the fence I worked on today is solid and will withstand many years of weather and little boys with soccer balls or baseballs. It gave me slivers of wood, sunburn and I am bordering on exhaustion. It’s a good tired though and the people inside that fence are worth protecting. 

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