Sunday Column: The Rules of Fencing

IMG_3349Happy July everyone. My favorite month of the year. I rung it in in family tradition by heading east to my grandparent’s lake cabin in Minnesota to hang with the relatives and do lake things.

And while the rest of the ranch and me were out in Minnesota last weekend frolicking in the water, eating summer sausage sandwiches, lounging in the sun, taking in the fireworks displays, DSCN3428DSCN3433DSCN3420 DSCN3417  DSCN3414

and trying to balance two Veeder girls and a baby bump on a paddle board…

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Husband had to stay home to work and take care of the cows.

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Now, don’t feel too bad. In the summer, with the tall green grass and plenty pasture land, taking care of the cows really just means making sure they don’t get into the neighbors field.

And that’s pretty much it.

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I was feeling guilty a little bit, except that I know the man is fine with the responsibility, especially since his recent purchase…the two-wheeled cow checker–for when you’re pretty sure the cows are in, but just want to zip around to make sure so you probably don’t need to go through all the trouble of getting the horses in and saddling up.

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It’s the perfect tool for a man who has the heart and spirit of a twelve year old…

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And so that’s what Husband did this weekend. He mowed the grass and worked on wiring the garage and finishing the basement and he checked the cows.

And, not surprisingly, a few were out.

So he got them in. With the dog and a dirt bike.

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And then, as it would tend to go, while he went back to check the fences for the undiscoverable holes, he looked behind him to witness one feisty and athletic old bovine, the one he just put back in her place, making a leap back to the other side, like a 1,500 pound mule deer.

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Because sometimes even the best cowboys with the best dogs, the best forms of transportation and the best fences cannot tame a cow convinced that the grass is greener…

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Coming Home: Rules of fencing, the never-ending chore, are never forgotten
by Jessie Veeder
7-5-15
Forum Communications

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.

Peace, Love and Fence Posts,

Jessie

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Rules of fencing the Veeder Ranch

There are jobs at the ranch that are truly enjoyable at times.  Riding to gather cattle can be one of those jobs… if all goes well and the bull is in a good mood.

Unfortunately, the need for that task often signals the need to grab the tools and the bug spray to tackle the one job on the ranch that is often procrastinated and proves not quite as relaxing and soul-resurrecting as riding a good horse across a field full of fat and happy cattle.

It’s called fencing, and it’s not the kind that involves a skinny sword, a white jump suite and netted, alien headgear. It does, however,  involve 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 of work as long as they have barbed wire fences.

Because as long as they have fences, the fences will need to be fixed.

Some of my earliest memories as a ranch kid are of hopping in the pickup on a hot August day with my pops or my gramma and grampa to go check fences. I had a good gramma and grampa who understood how to make a tediously long, hot day more pleasing to a kid by ensuring that candy and cookies fell magically out of the passenger seat visor when I flipped it down.

Happened every time.

I remember my short legs stuffed in holy jeans leaning against the stick shift of the old blue truck as my pops drove slowly down the fence line, stopping every few moments to get out, grab a staple, piece of wire or new fence post and make a repair. I remember dozing off in the hot sunshine or getting out to pick wildflowers. I remember sweating and swatting the flies and buzzing bugs that lived and multiplied in the snarly, thorny, swampy brush patches where the fence was always down.

I remember eating a warm ham sandwich in a shady spot and drinking equally warm water out of my pops’ water cooler.

I remember the poke of the barbs as I helped hold a string of wire, the holes in my jeans I would get as I attempted to cross the mended fence, the hum of the Patty Loveless or Clint Black song coming through the dial am radio of the old work pickup.

I remember the quiet, with only the cows mooing from the right side of the fence when the pickup was turned off during a long repair. And I remember getting stuck when that pickup wouldn’t quite make it through a draw–particularly the time I took a new puppy along only to have her puke all over my lap as pops pushed and spun and rocked his way out of the hole he dug himself in.

But mostly I remember being hot.

It seemed like that was a requirement when it came to every fencing job: Make sure the temperature promised to hit well above 80 degrees, wait for mid-day and then put on your jeans, boots and long sleeved shirt and take on the job.

And so there I found myself, having flashbacks of those memories this past weekend as I hopped on the back of the 4-wheeler to help tackle a fence line by the fields with husband. I have never gone on a fencing job with anyone other than my pops, but I don’t know why I expected the rules of fencing to change with any other man or at any other age.

No sir, no ma’am, the only thing that changed since I was a seven-year-old fuzzhead was our means of transportation. And as we zoomed that 4-wheeler up the path to the fields in the blaring, scorching mid-day July sun, the horseflies took a split second or less to remember that my skin tasted delicious and just like that we began checking off tasks and situations on the list titled:

“Rules of Fencing at the Veeder Ranch.” 

They are as follows, in no particular order:

1) Well, we’ve been over the first one, but let’s just be clear. Choose to take your manual labor trip in the heat of the day. It is not a smart or comfortable option, but apparently the only option available to procrastinators who like to have a little coffee, a little bacon and a few eggs…and then another helping while they catch the end of CBS Sunday Morning.

2) Make sure to spray on a nice mist of Deep Woods OFF to ward off the hawk sized bugs…and then forget to load it up in the bucket with the rest of the supplies as you head miles into the wilderness. I mean, why on earth would we need a second dousing of the stuff in the middle of a raptor infested coulee? Besides, with more bug spray we wouldn’t be able to really test how much buzzing and biting a human furnace/sauna can 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. I mean, 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 when barbed wire was first invented, a pocket knife and one measly fence post is the type of feat only a real Renaissance/McGuiver type specimen can handle…and we’re those type of men out here…even if you are a woman…

Which brings me to the staples…

4) Forget them in the shop.

5) But for the love of Martha, don’t forget the pug. I mean running for three to four miles at top speed behind the 4-wheeler to a location void of water and adequate shade or breeze is the perfect death defying act for an insane lap dog. Go ahead, just try to leave him behind, but don’t be alarmed when he pops up over the hill, tongue dragging on the ground, snorting for air and making a beeline to the tiny bit of shade the mid-day 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 a small, undetectable hole where your right pointer finger is innocently located and make sure that opening in the protective fabric is just the right size for a thorn to poke through and draw blood. Because the number seven rule of fencing just happens to be…

7) Bleed. Because you’re not fencing until you’re good and 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 like hell. Sweat all that bug spray off. Sweat out all that water that you forgot to pack. Sweat so you must roll up your sleeves just enough to expose your tender flesh to the thorns and thistle you must reach into to yank up trampled fence…

10) and then bleed again, cuss again, sweat a little more, turn around to find that your companion has disappeared over the hill to pick wildflowers, decide that only a really svelte and athletic cow could maneuver through your fence repairs, head home for lunch with every intention of returning after the meal only to actually revisit the site the next morning to find those extra plump, extra lazy cows are in the field again.

Ahhh,fencing..


Yup.