This Story About a Broken Fence Will Change the Way You See Your Neighbors
Good fences make good neighbors, but a good attitude about a bad fence can work just as well.
About a month after we moved to our 50-acre farm, I got home from my job as a machinist to find that two of the neighbor’s cows and a calf had wandered through the sagging fence along our woodlot. The neighbor, Lorne Wright, took it all in stride and showed up with his border collie, Laddie, to herd them back into his pasture—and with part of a roll of nine-wire fence.
“There’s probably enough to reach from the road to the first brace post if you were of a mind to fix this spot,” he said. My face lit right up. I wanted to be a good neighbor, but money was tight.
I took some vacation the next week and was well into the miserable job of pulling the old fence out of the tall grass when our mail carrier stopped his car and walked over. Bill Risk was a big, good-natured man who always seemed to have a story to tell. He said, “Fixing fence, are you?
“A long time ago, back when my granddaddy lived hereabouts, two fellows homesteaded next to each other. Back then, you put up fence before you did anything else, so these two men agreed that each would start building fence on opposite ends of their properties and meet in the middle.
“When they finished, one said to the other, ‘Well, it looks good. It should last a long time.’
“But the other said, ‘My half looks good, because I started where I should have, but you started your half about 2 feet over on my property and I want it moved right away!’
“Well, sir, these two fellows, who could have been good neighbors, started right off with hard feelings. Neither would go to a threshing if the other was there. They even began going to different churches, and the feud went on for years. Finally one man sold his farm, and no sooner had the new owner moved in than his neighbor paid him a visit.
“He said, ‘There has always been a problem with our line fence. Your half begins 2 feet over on my property. It should have been moved a long time ago.’
“The new neighbor glanced at the fence, thought for a moment, then said, ‘I intend to be here a long time, and I always intend to be a good neighbor. If you think the fence is on your property, you move it to wherever you think it should be, and you’ll never hear a complaint from me.’
“They became good friends, went to the same church, threshed together and played cards at each other’s homes. And the fence was never moved.
“So keep that fence straight, neighbor,” Bill concluded. Then he walked back to his car, leaving me with a smile on my face as I went back to work.
The story had a good moral to it. Whether it was actually true, I never knew. But I did heed the tale. Lorne and I became friends, and stayed friends, for more than 30 years until he passed away.