Fences

I’ve been thinking a lot about fences lately. My neighbors’ new dog, Sissy, got me started, I’m sure. She is an 8 month old lab/boxer mix. She’s been living next door since she was 6 weeks old. We never noticed her till about a month ago. She’s a very quiet, well behaved neighbor. Or at least she was until three days ago. There are wooden fences that divide the yards in our neighborhood. Put there to keep people and animals out or just for privacy. There are wooden fence walls along the back of our property and on both sides. We didn’t put any of them up, they were here when we moved in 12 years ago. Both fronts are still open because we have never put up any gates. We don’t have any pets and there is plenty of privacy as it is so we don’t need them for that purpose. And other than the occasional cat or dog and even a couple of possums, there is no need to keep anyone or anything out. There has never been an unwelcome human in our yard unless you count the time we came home early after being out of town and saw our neighbor picking figs off of our bush. He did startle me and saw me through the window. Quickly he walked around to the front door and told my husband he didn’t know we were home and he was only trying to keep the birds off the bush. My husband told him that he and the birds were welcome to as many as they liked, there were too many for us to eat. But back to Sissy. As I said, we hardly even knew she was in the back yard. But then she began to jump against the wooden boards and knocked out several of my neighbors’, the ones who live directly behind her and have two dogs. The funny thing is, she didn’t try to enter, just seemed content to be able to see them. That evening, we decided to grill. We are having an unseasonably warm February and the weather was just perfect for it. My husband was outside for just a few minutes when he came in and informed me that Sissy was in our yard! Guess the smell of grilling steaks was too much for her and she had knocked down two boards in the fence between us and came on over. I was most concerned that she would run away because, as I mentioned, we don’t have gates so our yard is wide open on both sides. The only way we could get her back into her own yard was for me to climb through the opening and call her. Once I was through, I then had to crawl back through while my husband pushed her and tried to hold the boards so she wouldn’t follow me. It was quite comical in retrospect but I have to admit, I did get a bit scared when she started jumping on me in her yard. She may only be 8 months old, but when she jumped up on me, her front paws were on my shoulders. We got the boards back up and that was that. At least for that night. The next morning, we woke up to FIVE missing boards and could see that she had knocked out 6 or 7 of the back neighbors. We spent most of that day reinforcing our fence using deck screws and so far, she hasn’t knocked anymore out. Her owners were very apologetic and embarrassed. I chalk it up to her boredom and loneliness when they are away all day. While all of this fence business was going on at my house, I heard the Pope and Donald Trump talking about building/not building a wall between the US and Mexico. I grew up in El Paso, Texas, a city on the border with Juarez,Mexico. At that time, there was a fence of sorts between the two countries. When we would go over to visit and shop, we would have to go through Mexican Customs on the way over and U.S. Customs on the way back. Always a bit unnerving but that’s the way it is with borders. I married my husband who was in the Army and we stayed in El Paso for a couple of years since he was stationed at Ft. Bliss. He had to go to post early, before sun up, to do PT with his troops. Many mornings on his way to work, he would see men and some times women, running across I-10 from Juarez. Guess they were going to work, too.The border was and is patrolled by the Border Patrol but they can’t be everywhere, so people get through. We used to go with friends sometimes, out to the desert near our apartment to shoot at cans and bottles. We would go to a place that was very secluded so as not to disturb or accidentally shoot anyone. The place we went to had a barbed wire fence near it and some times we would hold the wires apart and crawl over to the other side. And then, we were in Mexico. It was that easy and probably still is in certain parts of the border. Flash forward a couple of years and I was living in West Germany with my soldier. His mission was to defend against the Russian hoards if they ever decided to invade. The area they would’ve most likely done that was called the Fula Gap. A large, open area, big enough to roll tanks though. We lived in a small German village that was just a few miles from the border. I can’t remember how far exactly but I know it would only take about 10 minutes to get there by car. We hadn’t been living there long when my downstairs neighbor, a German girl who became a good friend, asked me if I would like to go see the grenze. I’m not sure I even knew what that word meant but in her broken English, she explained to me that it was the Wall. The East/West German border. This was during the Cold War, 1985. People from the East were still being shot and killed when they tried to escape from the East to the West. I road along with her in her car and we were there in no time. I remember there being a few other cars with people leaning against them talking. Some were smoking cigarettes. All very casual and laid back, incongruous with what we were all looking at. A tall metal fence, topped with concertina wire and guard towers with soldiers in uniform with machine guns over their shoulders looking back at us, some through binoculars. We didn’t stay long but it was a sobering moment for me. That night when my husband got home from work I told him where I’d gone. He very assertively told me that I should not have been there and he could have been thrown out of the Army if I had been identified as an American, especially the spouse of an Army officer. He wasn’t too mad since he said he should have told me. But then again, he might’ve thought I knew better. Ironically, about a year later I went to work for the USO and one of my jobs was to conduct tours for spouses and other family members to the border. The difference was, we were always accompanied by a US soldier and we only went to areas where the US was patrolling. The area I had gone to wasn’t one of those. Luckily, I didn’t cause and international incident. When I hear politicians talk about building a fence between the US and Mexico, I immediately flash back to my first trip to the grenze, the German border. It’s not there any longer. After the Cold War ended the walls came down. But in order for a fence along our border to actually keep people out, it would have to be similar to the grenze. Otherwise, like me and my friends, there is nothing to keep people from climbing under or over. Or going through like Sissy. Is that really something we want? A fence stretching thousands of miles with armed guards shooting people who dare to cross? I know there are “bad guys” out there, but if we build a fence, they’ll find another way in. The thought of another pre-Cold War fence just doesn’t seem like the American way.

Advertisements