Monday, May 10, 2010

Fence Art


On the way back to one of my mushroom haunts, I came across this old oil filter set on top of an old fence post, a post that I know well. For almost twenty years ago, I spent a long summer helping my family put in this fence. Our neighbor at the time on the side of the fence I was standing on when I took this picture informed my father that he wished to raise cattle on his side. The law that is standard says that when two people with adjoining property put in an fence, you own or are responsible for the fence that is located to the right of the center point of the joining line between property from the perspective of you standing on your land looking towards your neighbor. In this case, our share amounted to almost a half mile.

We dug the holes as far as could be dug with a three-point-hitch-mounted post hole digger and then dug out the remainder by hand with jobbers. They are a scissor like tool that can grab dirt and pinch it between two blades and made specifically to dig fence post holes. Being fairly young at the time, my job was to string out the fence posts, carrying each one from a pile on a hay rack to the newly dug hole and then after the adults set the post, fill in the remainder of the hole while tamping it in with a heavy tamping rod. It was a lot of work even if it were spread out over a summer.

We strung it with shiny new barbed wire, stretched it tight and despite the crooked nature of hedge tree fence posts, had a really sharp looking fence. But here is the rub. The neighbor never did install his half of the fence and never raised cows on his property. In fact, almost twenty years after we built our half of the fence, he sold the land to my parents and so they own both sides of the fence. Being good stewards of the land and not wanting to hold the wildlife back, they unstrung all the wire last year and will probably remove the posts this year.

Back to the oil filter on top of the fence post, I thought I would remember having put the filter on top of the post after having installed every single one of them along that half mile stretch. In fact, I was amazed that I hadn't noticed it before since I had been hunting mushrooms in some timber down around the "missing" half of the fence for longer than the fence and have walked along that stretch for over twenty years. When I touched the can and saw that although heavy from moisture and dirt, it wasn't attached to the post, I was even more amazed that it hadn't blown off after all these years.

That amazement lasted until I was waiting on my brother to get back from hunting mushrooms, I saw him walk up with a sack of them in one hand and the oil filter in the other. He had been behind me on our walk back to the draw where we had found our mushrooms and had evidently found the can on the ground in the freshly turned earth on our former neighbor's side and set it on the fence post to pick up on the way back. It was actually an ordinary story after all.

11 comments:

R. Sherman said...

Interesting law. In Missouri, when we gave each county the option of open range, the fencing law changed, too. With open range, the burden of maintenance fell on the landowner who didn't want cattle. Now, it's the opposite. Thus, it would be the neighbor's responsibility to keep his cattle in and maintain the entire fence.

Cheers.

Vince said...

Nowadays you would clamp the stake in a hydraulic sledge or use the loader of the tractor which has two-way rams now. No more the augers, pincers, mallets or sledges. No more the tools of the medieval torturer. No more the real terror of having a strand of wire snap, only to wrap itself round you like a nasty snake.

Mind you, you would have to wonder what gunk was in the sump to cause the filter to be removed in the middle of a field.

Ed said...

R. Sherman - Interesting, I assumed that Iowa's law was common everywhere. I guess I kind of understand making those who want the fence responsible for the fence. However if I were the neighbor, I think I would still want to put in half just to ensure that a quality job was done. My parents had another neighbor who had terrible fencing on their half and their cows were forever getting out into my parents field and destroying crops. Short of sending them a bill for having an insurance adjuster come out once a year, there wasn't much they could legally do to get them to fix their fence.

Vince - If you could have known the man and the bulldozer that did the terrace work in the field where the oil filter was found, you would understand. I would conservatively estimate that for every billable hour he worked with his dozer, he was down for ten non-billable hours doing repairs.

PhilippinesPhil said...

Laws that cover literally every possibility, sounds GREAT. Living in a place that is almost lawless makes you appreciate that.

Eutychus2 said...

Staying at some old friends house for a weeks vacation three years ago I helped take out fence posts and nearly killed myself ... that's not a job an almost 60yrs old at the time....good luck on your efforts. You're younger, I'm sure you'll do fine.

TC said...

Aww, kind of disappointing about the filter. But good memories never-the-less.

sage said...

Is a jobber the same thing as a post-hole digger? What an interesting way to recycle old oil filters.

Ed said...

Phil - I've come to appreciate that fact.

Eutychus2 - I'll probably leave that job to the old man. He will probably leave the job to his hired Amish help. They are younger than all of us and have very strong backs.

TC - They certainly were good memories now that the back breaking work is 20 years past.

Sage - In my area, post hole digger is a generic term that could encompass motor and tractor powered ones as well as a hand turned spiral auger bit. Jobbers are a specific term that refer to one thing only.

Beau said...

Interesting story. As R. mentioned, I'm thankful our laws generally indicated that whomever wants to fence in livestock is responsible for the fence. I could be wrong, but I think once installed however, that both sides must maintain...

Three Score and Ten or more said...

You call them Jobbers. Where I come from they are "post hole diggers" (WE call a spade a spade.

Bone said...

I've only used one of those old hand-held post-hole diggers once, to put up a basketball goal. That was enough. Putting up an entire fence that way, that's some hard work.