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good fences make good neighbors

My summertime job in Iowa consisted of working for two widowed sisters who lived in two separate houses on one big farm. I trimmed hedges and painted fences and mowed and pulled weeds. And before my sisters and I would start work each morning, one of the sisters would read poetry to us. (She was a teacher after all.) 

One of her favorites was Robert Frost's "The Mending Wall." 

"He only says, 'Good fences make good neighbors'. 
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder 
If I could put a notion in his head: 
'Why do they make good neighbors? Isn't it 
Where there are cows? 
But here there are no cows. 
Before I built a wall I'd ask to know 
What I was walling in or walling out."

I never understood what "good fences make good neighbors" meant until marrying a dairy farmer.  Good fences keep animals in -- where they're supposed to be -- just as they keep animals out of places where they're NOT supposed to be. 

Animals break through fences now and then. They duck under them and run straight through them. And if they do, everyone stops what they're doing and focuses solely on the lost being found. 

So when I saw black cows -- and not black and white cows -- trotting along our bean field fence line, I called my husband, figuring the farmer they belong to would like them back as quickly as possible before they made lunch out of another neighbor's corn field. 

After leaving the field, the beef mamas and their babies turned back toward home and started trotting down the road, stopping to sniff and listen and look and nudge the calves along. 

It was like the rural version of Rawhide. 

You can sing along. 

You know you want to.

Move 'em on - Head 'em up! - Head 'em up - Move 'em on! - Move 'em on - Head 'em up!

Cut 'em out - Ride 'em in! - Ride 'em in - Cut 'em out! - Cut 'em out - Ride 'em in!



I might have gotten a little carried away here. This is excitement for us rural folk, mmkay?

Right about the time they were trying to decide if they should make a break for it through the corn field or keep on trudging down the road, help arrived! 

It wasn't quite Roy Rogers on Trigger, but it was my farmer and brother-in-law in a red pickup and that's pretty close. 

Using his truck -- and horn -- Chris moved them on down the road (where they tried to rush our house and I hopped up on the deck like a big weeny before getting plowed over), using his truck like a big red gate to keep them from getting too far into the ditch or the field . . . or our lawn. 

I, on the other hand, was trying valiantly to keep my two pups from pretending they were cattle dogs who were trying singlehandedly to cause a stampede with all their barking and darting. Let's just say I didn't really succeed.

Keep movin', movin', movin' - Though they're disapprovin' - Keep them doggies movin'- RAWHIDE!

Gah. I can't help myself. 

Off they toodled down the road, moving at a galatial pace . . . until our dairy cows in our pasture caught wind that their neighbors had vacated the premises. 

Then it because an all out Olympic sprint to the finish. Dairy cows were running. Beef cows were running. Chris's dogs were barking. The neighbor's dogs were barking. The neighbor's horses were whinnying. It was a small circus. Err . . . rodeo?

With others along to help and the gate swung wide open in preparation for their return, the cows made it safely home, back inside their fence. 

"Why do fences make good neighbors? Isn't it where there are cows? But here there are no cows!"

Good fences make good neighbors. But when fences fail, neighbors step in, rounding up livestock, turning them toward home, urging them down the road, and making sure the same number that left arrive back home. 

Aaaaaand maybe signing a chorus or two of Rawhide along the way. 


  1. Ok, thanks for officially getting that song stuck in my head. :)

  2. This ironic and metalic fence seems to be very strong. Post and Rail Fence Calgary is also strong as this. From its picture,we can infer that how important fencing is!


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