Good fences make good neighbours. Walls can be good places to post things. Walls and fences can be torn down or be nice places to sit on or lean on and talk things out.
Fences and garden walls have seemed to play an important part of my life creating punctuation in it. Some of my first memories are of helping my Dad build the fence around our first family home…
Later memories of growing up with my friends using that fence as a plaything, the stockade around a frontier fort or a castle wall, complete with a tower. That first fence was built when I was 2 or 3, but the addition of a 6 foot patio fence was when I was 8 or 10 and I helped Dad a bit more than being his shadow. Later it protected our travel trailer and my car when I got one.
Dad and I helped Grandpa putting up barbed wire fencing on the dry open prairie near the badlands. That was an experience I’ll never forget. Something shared between 3 generations. A lot of city kids would never experience the world like that.
Our next house was when I was in university and Dad and I ventured to build a stone retaining wall. I mixed wheel barrow loads of mortar for that and helped haul the stone and dig the fill. It was a thing of beauty built of a golden red rough and craggy stone. That wall will stand for ages.
The next home was smaller, but we had a formidable set of fences around it with a poured retaining wall… the walls for that were to be hidden from view. We terraced the yard though with retaining walls made from gardening ties. There was much topsoil to be hauled into that yard by barrow. (The cement was hauled that way too.) The yard was beautiful and when we had a torrential 100 year rain storm, our yard did not flood, but the rain flowed properly ending up in our storm drainage system. The soil didn’t run away and didn’t flow into the house at all. Our walls and fences did the job.
The last house… a townhouse… the first I was a visitor to. It’s fence was built by others. A metal rail fence with stone sections mixed in. It looks nice and does its job. The important thing was that Mom and Dad didn’t have to worry about upkeep.
For me… a few more fences, rental suites facing back yards… reminding me of when I lived with Mom and Dad.
One thing, that all those fences had in common was a chance for Dad and I to work together. Often I didn’t care to — preferring maybe to play with toys or the other boys. But, if not doing that, even when an older teen or young adult — I found that spending that time with Dad was a treasure. Even while we did not have a lot in common and we didn’t see eye-to-eye on a lot of things, we did have a lot in common: We believed in doing a good job. We believed that doing hard work felt good. We liked seeing what the results of our labour looked like. We liked each other’s company.
Even when finished. The fences and walls made for good places to talk and spend time outdoors. Not just Dad and me, but also Mom and my Sister and then her Husband and our other Relatives and Neighbours. I wished in later years more of my friends could have come and chatted by those walls and fences as well.
And one last fence for Dad… A tall one, probably the tallest one yet. Over 8 foot tall and made of those concrete boards that really give privacy and need little upkeep. Dad can’t really appreciate it. But I think Mom will when we visit Dad, and I think when we gather at the graveside, we will chat.
Some call it a curtain,
But maybe it’s a fence or garden wall.
We’ll all cross it some day
And meet in the end at our final call.