Robert Frost has the narrator of “Mending Wall” say that before one builds a fence, he should determine what he is walling in or walling out. I think that is true, don’t you? There has to be a purpose for a wall or a fence, right? Otherwise, why put one up?
Well, the historic town I live in is full of picket fences and a friend of mine who lives behind me just gave me a bunch of picket fence panels he had acquired somehow. My wife and I had been talking about building some kind of enclosure out back to hide unsightly stuff we have accumulated. A fence would be cheaper than a storage building and the city council is particular about what kind of structures you can put up here. So, we decided a little picket fence enclosure would be attractive and in line with the overall décor of our neighborhood.
So, I asked myself the question from Robert Frost’s poem: what am I walling in or walling out? An honest answer is that the fence is merely cosmetic. We want to hide a pile of seldom-used junk too valuable to throw away. But would a picket fence hide it? Probably not, but it would camouflage it somewhat. So, I am leaning toward getting started on the project. Right now, I just have the panels and posts laid out on the yard back there.
I have had some experience in fence building. My Gillham born and bred son-in-law is a highly skilled fence builder and I have watched him work. While my barbed wire fences never measured up to his creations, I did get the basic principles down. The trouble was, at that time I lived in a wooded area and trees and limbs had a tendency to fall on my handiwork.
My donkeys would show up in our neighbor’s yard and I would go fetch them with a feed bucket, secure them in the pasture and think my job was done. Then the phone would ring and the neighbor’s somewhat irritated voice would say, “They’re back.” After a time or two of this, I would walk the fence line back through the woods and, inevitably, I would find a tree or a limb down on the fence. I got pretty good and mending fences in more ways than one.
So, in answer to Robert Frost’s admonition to ask what we are walling in or walling out, I guess I was walling in wandering equines. But at this place there are no animals to consider. I don’t think my garbage can will get out and go to a neighbor’s yard. Thus, I am not walling anything in. But I am walling out eyes that would fall on a pile of junk. Oh, you can see through the picket fence, but the eye falls on the fence itself, not the spaces between the stakes. I hope.
A repeated refrain in Frost’s poem is, “Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.” I don’t think we will love our little picket fence. I do think our back yard will be a little more attractive.