Get the Gate

Cows through gate

Get the Gate
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“Get the gate.”

There are other words that conjure up anxiety for me, but none in the same way as this phrase declared from the driver’s seat of an old feed pickup or from atop a horse about to take off for a mile in the other direction and return with 100 cows that I’ve been instructed not to let miss that open gate and head for the deep and ominous patch of trees further down the fence line.

Get the gate. It seems simple enough if in your imagination you are picturing a white picket fence on neat hinges with a little latch. Easy.

We don’t have those here at the EV Ranch. No. What we do have is miles and miles of barbed wire fence line, much of it built 80 years ago, held up by old cedar and steel fence posts driven into the hard clay of the Badlands. And through the years, it’s been stretched and re-stretched, patched and stapled, trampled by wild elk and escaped by fence-crawling cattle that couldn’t be held by elephant fence so why do we even try…

The rules of fencing 5

And in the corners and on the flats, in the mud puddles and next to the trees there are the gates. Gates that have also been stretched and re-stretched so tight that I swear Hulk himself would grunt when trying to release the wire loop connecting one post to the other.

But my dad never did. Nope. He would just walk over there and pop that thing open like it was a toothpick connected to a string and we would move on with our lives. Which made me believe that my noodle arms and I were fully capable of opening it the next time we came across it.

But the whole “moving on with our lives” thing took a little longer with me in charge of the gates while Dad watched me flail, struggle, grunt, sweat and bleed before he opened the pickup door and put me out of my misery and I sheepishly returned to the passenger seat, my self-worth as a ranch kid sinking like my heart.

Oh, there are some gates on this place that are in dire need of work, making them easy to open. But you never really know what you’re going to get when you’re out there alone. Or worse yet, when the men in your life are watching you from the other side of the windshield.

The rules of fencing 6

ARCHIVE: Read more of Jessie Veeder’s Coming Home columns

I’m sweating just thinking about it actually. And I’m thinking about it today because my husband and I had a recent discussion regarding the gate next to our house put there to keep the cows out.

I got it open, but couldn’t get it closed and so I accused him of stretching it too tight after I pushed and pulled and cussed the thing before finally giving up, marching to the house crafting a speech in my head about equal access, equal rights and calculating the costs of buying those fancy metal gate closers for every gate on this place. Or at least some rope.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” my darling husband calmly replied after I delivered my address. “That’s one of the easy ones.”

I guess if I want to take matters into my own hands out here, I’ve got to… well… take matters in my own hands.

If you need me, I’ll be at the fleet store loading up my cart.

Closing Gate

7 thoughts on “Get the Gate

  1. You are strong. You are feminine. And you are giving your little girls every opportunity. You are terrific!

    So delighted to see the fellow wearing the chaps…(Husband?). The West lives on!!

  2. I have memories of bad-tempered, sagging, collapsing barbed wire farm gates from my Rhodesian childhood in the mid 1950s. I know EXACTLY what you mean.

  3. Hearing someone say, “Get the gate” doesn’t strike fear into my heart nearly as much as hearing that fever-pitched question, “Did you CLOSE the gate?” I get instantaneous heart palpitations just having to ask or waiting to hear the answer to that question. Last week I let the horses ‘down back’ and uncharacteristically forgot to check first with that special someone who last operated the gates, find out they they’d actually closed them all. Already late for an appointment, I swung to the side of the road and sent a panic-stricken text. Not that I’d even get an answer in a timely manner, but I crossed my fingers and prayed.

    “Yes!” came the quick reply.

    “All of them?” I asked again, knowing full well that he might easily have missed one. It’s happened before.


    Phew. Disaster averted. This time. 🙂

  4. I laughed so hard through the whole article. Believe me, time heals-I had forgotten about those gates till now. I struggled with them in the Badlands around Grassy Butte and when we moved to MN, those gates came with. Love, love your posts!

  5. Love, love this article! I laughed so hard. You see, time heals and I had forgotten about the gates. I grew up in the Badlands around Grassy Butte and struggled with those gates. And when we moved to MN, those gates came with. So, hang in there and some day you will laugh at the memories also.

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