Joe and Sam tamped solid the gravel around the last post. They stepped back, Austin Kind stepped in, drew his DeWALT, and sunk the last two screws on the final board. The origin of the fence was a quarter mile north. The first post had been planted a month ago.
It was eighty-eight in the shade. I had compromised the disk between L5 and L6 fifty posts ago. As everyone gathered tools and guzzled water, I stood as close to upright as I could and thanked them for making a ten year old dream come true.
There had been impediments.
The abridged Honeys* Do List:
Set up work bench
Build retaining wall
Sit on porch, Drink a beer
Sheila is my voice of reason, and governor. When the list says build a fence, my nature is to drop a line, dig holes, hang boards, and go. My wife reviews 1300 images on Pinterest, calls three different lumber yards for estimates, and has the material delivered. Then we build fence.
Shelly Reichert of Paradigm Farms, Lake Mills, has a pristine, white, three-board plastic fence. She also has Olympic-class Gran (gron) Prix dressage horses. We have five Quarter Horses re-homed from Flying B Ranch, and a broken-but-sweet Clydesdale. Stormie and Yukon are down in the Assisted Living pen. They’ve been on the farm since Sheila was in diapers. Our herd would look like Jethro Bodine at The Oscars behind such a structure.
We’d build wood.
If I were ever to consider digging 130 posts by hand, it was not at fifty-four years old. I laid the post-hole auger behind the tractor, pinning my ring finger. I pulled off my glove to find my wedding ring smashed flat on my rapidly swelling finger. I squeezed the ring with a pair of channel locks, relieved the pressure, and headed to work.
When I still could not slide the ring off, John Black at Countryside Jewelry had me come by. We iced my hand and sprayed it with Windex. I held one side with my Leatherman while John cranked the other with pliers. If our marriage holds up as well as the ring that represents it, we’re in it to the home.
I had this vision of every post solid as a soldier and straight as a laser, until we unwrapped the first bundle of posts. You can’t make a post straighter than the tree. On the third hole the auger hit rock, and the tractor started to buck. I was minimally amused when Sheila pointed out, “That’s why this is a horse pasture, and not a plowed field.”
We had an idea where we wanted the fence; the fence had others.
We made it from woods to laneway in a full-on Sunday afternoon. We had all the posts set and were four boards away from the corner when it started to rain. I didn’t recall Jim at Lake Mills Ace Hardware saying the DeWALT 20V cordless drill was not waterproof, so we kept at it until mud was caking two inches thick on my boots.
Each spring the Fort Atkinson High School FFA has a community service auction. These kids offer anything from babysitting to baling hay, in exchange for a donation to FFA. We got a pulled pork dinner, chocolate milk, and four hours from a thirteen-year-old farm boy, and eight hours from fifteen-year-old equestrian and volleyball player, for under $200.
Completing our crew was Braxton Walter. Sipping a root beer at the end of the bar at Tyranena, 10-year-old Braxton gave me a handshake and eye contact, telling me about the Tough Mudder he was training to do.
Braxton and Team FFA got us twenty-two posts by Saturday evening.
The next run, on Sunday, was a straight shot. Nineteen posts next to Santana’s paddock.
I drilled and set posts. Micaela and Sheila followed, hauling with the golf cart, hanging boards, and babbling like a couple-a-school girls. Sheila reminded Mic that she was the most annoying of the nieces and nephews.
I had grand visions of getting to Hwy J by lunch on first day. The reality was that by the time the sun was grazing the treeline Sunday evening, we’d made it to the bottom of the burial mound. Eight hundred feet of fence built, five hundred left to go.
Life intervened and the job sat for another two weeks.
It was time to call in the ringers.
Joe and Sam Pappa are Joe’s Handyman Service. They’ve painted our house, the clinic, replaced garage doors, basement doors, and stained every inch of trim in our house. They are all about git ‘er done.
Working construction for Jon Bound is like playing for Lombardi. Austin Kind has been Jon’s chief grunt for four years. Micaela was home from college again and Glenn was down for the weekend.
Give Glenn Fuller a canvas, a photograph, and a week, and he’ll paint a piece of history. Hand him a breaker bar and a shovel, and he’ll give you all he’s got, plus ten. Dad said, “You know son, that Glenn always gets his end.”
The ultimate endorsement of the workin’ man.
A month, three trips to the chiropractor, four trips to John at Countryside Jewelry, and one trip to St. Gabriel, and we were done. Where used to sit five bundles of cedar posts and six pallets of 2x6s, there ain’t nothin’ but scraps.
They say good fences make good neighbors. Sheila’s parents and brother live next door. We installed a remote-controlled gate so they could drive their golf cart up to supervise our progress or take Tugger for a ride.
Folks build fences to keep dogs, cattle, or kids in. They build them keep rabbits, foxes, or neighbors out.
We built ours to say, this is our home.