COMING HOME: Rules of fencing, the never-ending chore, are never forgotten
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- There are jobs at the ranch that are truly enjoyable at times. Fencing is generally not one of them. Fencing at the ranch involves wood ticks, nasty brush, a kazillion horse flies, barbed wire, pliers and a lot of bending over.
WATFORD CITY, N.D. -- There are jobs at the ranch that are truly enjoyable at times. Fencing is generally not one of them.
Fencing at the ranch involves wood ticks, nasty brush, a kazillion horse flies, barbed wire, pliers and a lot of bending over.
And if that doesn't sound pleasing enough, ranchers get a little extra comfort when they pull on their flannel jammies at night knowing that they are never at a loss for work as long as they have barbed wire fences.
Some of my earliest memories as a ranch kid are of hopping in the pickup on a hot July day with my dad to go check fences.
I remember leaning against the stick shift of the old truck as my dad drove slowly down the fence line, stopping every few moments to get out, grab a staple or new fence post and make a repair. I remember eating warm ham sandwiches, sweating and swatting the buzzing bugs that multiplied in the thorny brush patches where the fence was always down, the poke of the barbs and the hum of the Clint Black song coming through the am radio of the old work pickup.
But mostly I remember being hot.
And so as long as I live, I will never forget the 10 (or was it 11) basic rules of fencing the Veeder Ranch, because monumental and never-ending tasks like these leave an impression on a kid.
1) Choose to take your trip in the heat of the day. It's not a smart option, but the only option for procrastinators who like to have coffee, bacon and eggs, and then another helping while they catch the end of CBS Sunday Morning.
2) Intend to apply a thick mist of Deep Woods OFF to ward off the hawk-sized bugs, and then forget to bring it along as you head miles into the wilderness. Because how else would you be able to really test how much buzzing and biting a human sauna can endure?
3) If you think you may need five to seven steel fence posts to get the job done, be sure to only locate one to take along. Because a man needs a challenge, and figuring out how to re-stretch a half-mile of wire using a rusty plier, reused fencing staples from 1918, a pocket knife and one measly fence post is the type of feat only a real Renaissance/MacGyver-type specimen can handle. Which brings me to the staples ...
4) Forget them in the shop.
5) But for the love of Martha, don't forget the dog. I mean, running for 3 to 4 miles at top speed behind the four-wheeler to a location void of water or an adequate breeze is the perfect death-defying act for a cow dog. Go ahead, just try to leave him behind, but don't be alarmed when he pops up over the hill and makes a beeline to the tiny bit of shade the midday sun provides off of your small ATV.
And while you're at it...
6) Forget to bring your good leather gloves. Instead, pull on the pair with the hole where your right pointer finger is located. Because the No. 7 rule of fencing just happens to be ...
7) Bleed. You're not fencing until you're itchy, poked, stabbed, bruised and bleeding.
8 ) So make sure to bring company. Because if a man cusses in the pasture and there's no one there to hear it, is he really even angry?
And if you're cussing anyway, you might as well ...
9) Sweat. Sweat out all that water that you forgot to pack. Sweat so you must roll up your sleeves just enough to expose your flesh to the thorns you must reach into to yank up trampled fence.
10) And then bleed again, cuss louder, sweat a little more, turn around to find that your companion has disappeared over the hill to pick wildflowers, decide that only a really smart and athletic cow could maneuver through your fence repairs, head home for lunch with every intention of returning after the meal only to revisit the site the next morning to find those extra plump, extra lazy cows are in the field again.
11) Repeat until the ground freezes.
Jessie Veeder is a musician and writer living with her husband on a ranch near Watford City, N.D. Readers can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org .