June 19, 2016
Land identification does not change easily in rural landscapes. When a farm, ranch, or corner store passes hands, folk continue to identify it in the name of the previous owner years beyond the exchange.
Ray’s place became part of the farm a few years ago. The passing of land and its being used differently meant some fence lines would need to come down and other go up. However, I found knowing my neighbor well, meant I felt out of place any time I was on soil that once was his. Because of that, I’ve waited to remove and construct fences. Eventually, however, the time came to get the work done.
H-braces hold fence lines taut and are the first features built. Theses went up in the early spring. A month later T-posts were driven and then wire stretched. The fence is a five wire fence. The top two wires are barbwire, the next is electric fence wire, the fourth barb, and the bottom electric. The pattern works well for a cow and goat operation. The barbwire keeps cows in place and the goats, who duck through the barbwire easily enough, are stopped by the electric wire.
Wire clips hold the barbwire to the fence posts. Insulators hold the electric wire to the same posts. I had a number of insulators on hand from pulling them off old posts; some from the farm and others from Ray’s place.
When working a neighbors place you are acutely aware they are never quite gone. That has a lot to do with why locals call places by the last owner’s name—even if it has been decades since they last lived there, and why local folk know the land being fenced as the old Brown place. Fair enough, the working sweat and blood of those people are embedded in the soil they lived and worked on all those years. One does not need be the best listener in the world to hear those voices of work long after they have left the land.
Listening well and remembering the folk who went before allows for the storytelling of not only the last folk who resided on the land, but also those who came before them and those who came before them. One may not hear the storying of the ancient people who walked, hunted, and gathered on that same soil clearly at first, but having reminders to keep listening is helpful to find clarity. Clarity might come in the river stone found miles from the nearest river, in the hovering hawk overhead, or maybe in an insulator.
I have always used yellow and black electric insulators for the electric fence on the farm. In the building of the fences, I used these same yellow and black insulators to hold electric wire to post. However, Ray used red insulators as well and that matters for those red insulators speak to who he was and how he entered into the world. Therefore, it is only right to place one red insulator on each new fence line.
One day, someone will come along, walk this land and build upon or remove these same fence lines. Chances are they will never notice the red insulators. However, for as long as I am on the land, each time I walk the fence line and see the red insulator, I will be reminded to remember those who walked this soil yesterday and whose hand pulled fence before me.