by Barry and Steve Simpson
Who knew that a massive accumulation of tiny, delicate snowflakes could bring down a barbed wire fence? Most farmers and ranchers, I suspect.
I thought the fence would simply become encased within said snowdrift until the spring thaw released it in fine fashion. Not true!
The heavy and malicious snowfall of this last winter pretty much brought down all of the fences surrounding our Monticello mountain property.
Lucky for me, the fine folks renting the place for summer pasture were willing and able to reset the posts and re-stretch the wire.
When I told Laurie that a massive, dead Quaking Aspen had been blown over and obliterated a set of gateposts, she decided it might be time to replace the stretched wire gates with welded metal panels.
Since replacing gates was not in the agreement with the cowboys, the job fell to me. I grew up in and around gas stations, trading posts, and restaurants so I know the basics of those endeavors, but next to nothing about fixing fence or setting gateposts.
Thank goodness for YouTube! I soon discovered, though, that everyone who posted a video had differing opinions on how to accomplish such a task.
I also realized that setting posts and gates is not rocket science, but there is a science to the process. After researching various approaches, I was beginning to get caught up in the entanglement of conflicting details.
Luckily for me, Laurie ran into a tried and true fence-building phenomenon at the business fair sponsored by the college where she works. Wayne Button of the Bar None Fence Brace Company had me lined out in no time.
Because of obligations at the trading post and café along with missteps caused by input from Steve, Bishop Powell, Rick, and Frances, the job took me much longer to complete than I would have liked.
A word of warning: Never listen to free advice from a gaggle of goosey do-gooders. Whether intentional or not, they will lead you astray each and every time.
On the last day, all I needed to do was to set the last post, hang the last gate panel, and, finally, stretch and nail down the last few strands of rusty barbed wire. But first, I needed to drop a couple of those pesky quakes before the spring winds brought them down on my handiwork.
I do have to admit that a little instruction from Bishop Powell on how to lay a tree down in the opposite direction of which it is leaning did come in handy.
I parked my pickup way out of reach of the old, dead tree I was looking to bring down, grabbed up my Stihl chainsaw, and began walking toward it – the 70-foot-tall snag that stood right along the roadway, just 50 feet from my unfinished gate.
As I walked down the double track toward the tree, a squirrel came rushing down the trunk at a furious rate of speed. It jumped onto one of the furrows lined by knee-high stalks of grass and bolted in my direction. The darn thing looked like a mini-Tsavo lion charging me through the long grass!
I stood at the intersection where the gate and two dirt roads met and wondered if I was facing a rabid rodent bent on sinking his frothing choppers into my shin bone.
Several offensive moves flashed through my brain, one of which was the indefensible crane leg stance/kick I learned from the Kung Foo Panda movie. I meant to lay out that mangy cur with one lightning-fast assault.
Then I realized I was carrying a rip-roaring weapon in my right hand. I reached for the pull cord but there was no time, the ferocious fellow was nearly upon me.
The little beastie must have seen my set-up but seemed undeterred and came to within six feet of my boot. As I stood in indecision, the squirrel veered right and headed uphill away from me. The last I saw of him was when he turned into the oak brush about thirty yards up the road.
“What the heck was that all about?” I wondered.
I squinted up into the snag I wanted to down to see if there was a nest up there. The long-dead tree was slick as a peeled onion from top to bottom with nothing visible to the naked eye.
Walking around the trunk I nearly stepped on a baby deer curled-up in the grass. It was a tiny thing that blended in beautifully with the ground cover.
I quickly stepped away from the benign Bambi because I knew Mama Faline would be near and I didn’t want to leave a scent trail to the little guy for some predator to discover.
Our Navajo neighbors are always telling me how important it is to pay close attention to your surroundings. “The earth, sky and all of their creatures have things to teach you,” says Priscilla. “Pay attention!”
I don’t know for certain if that bushy squirrel was trying to tell me the fawn was there or if it was just angry that I was attempting to bring down an essential element of its high-flying trapeze act.
Either way, the tree still stands.
I saw the fawn tripping through the trees on the trail of its mother later that week. I am hoping I created enough good Karma with the natural world to keep that big-ole-snag from dropping on my new gate.
I guess that remains to be seen.