The Fence II

My little fence repair project is finished. I stained it this afternoon. I like it given that I kept the posts that were already in place, one of them–the big rough-looking post–being, as my brother reminded me, originally part of barbed-wire fence that bordered a wonderful horse pasture. It enclosed what would now be considered a wetland. Back then we called it a swamp because it had a ditch running east to west through the middle of it and it was soft and gooey and full of life.

The north portion was open with lush grasses that horses fed on. South of the earthen ditch was a lively ecosystem of cattails, thick weeds and brambles which served as host to pheasants and skunks and all sorts of other fauna.

It was a wonderful place filled with the scent of mint that grew wild along the soft, moist banks of the ditch. Frogs sang us to sleep during the warm summer nights and water snakes slithered their way into our backyard and up through cracks in the cement.

A large willow tree lived at the eastern border of the field and served as willing host to birds while it shielded us from the Hansens’ view, good folks who lived east of the field. (I would occasionally hit golf balls into the field with my wedge or nine iron or shoot paper clips using rubber bands at the birds. I never remember hitting one, but I scared a few, I think. I guess I was a little worried about being caught, you know, for being a boy.)

I loved golf as a boy and created my own course that encircled the house. I mowed paths out into the dry weed field that merged into our backyard where I cut tee boxes so I could hit drives using my wedge or nine iron with the plastic practice golf balls that only flew 20-30 yards. I mowed the lawn fairly closely so I could make crisp contact with each stroke of the club on ball. I even lowered the height adjustment on the mower–I loved the mower’s height adjustment–in order to cut the grass for little putting greens at each corner of the house. (There were four greens and probably four or five tee boxes that I created including one out in the horse pasture.)

I believe I even had a pencil design of the course with each tee box, fairway, and green sketched out just like a regular golf scorecard. And now that I am remembering this, I did create a scorecard. (I don’t know if it still exists somewhere hidden away in a box of memorabilia. I hope it does.)

Since my brother reminded me of that fence post, I remember how much I loved that pasture, that field of my dreams. A boy’s dreams, of escape into imagination and play.

I remember getting pissed that the gophers would regularly erupt from beneath the surface of my golf course to spoil my work of art. Yes, I admit I would stay up all night waiting with the pellet gun my brother-in-law Dale gave me–my father hated guns–to take out the unsuspecting gopher as he surfaced from his hole. I was Bill Murray’s greenskeeper Carl Spackler with a sharp-shooter’s eye long before the movie Caddyshack was ever imagined.

I remember the horses who I fed with freshly mowed grass clippings, watching them walk over to eat with gusto after I dumped the pile into the field.

I don’t feel nostalgia often, but thinking about that pasture, that field, it’s alive in me now.

I miss the skunk stink, the pheasant calling out, the swampy squishiness underfoot, the scratchy, dry itch of weeds as I explore the shrouded mystery and surprise during my cattail escapes. I miss the intimacy of the wildness that was my neighbor now replaced with civilization and its stinky detritus.

I’m so grateful that Rodney reminded me of that post and the barbed wire fence it helped support because that field it enclosed, while gone forever physically, will play forever in my imagination.

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