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I have never cared much for fences.
I grew up with them, living on a tiny urban lot, but in the summers we came to Colorado, and we had no fences on the homestead.
Times change, however, and some of the property was sold. Fences appeared, along with signs which said “No Trespassing,” “No Hunting,” “Posted,” “Private Road,” “Private Property,” or the even more threatening “Trespassers Will Be Prosecuted.” Now you can even get a sign that says “Don’t Even Think of Parking Here!”
Not everyone has a fence, of course. If everyone who owned a piece of property put up a barbed wire or cyclone fence and a couple of those signs, the valley would look like a string of concentration camps.
I have tried to understand why people want to go to all the trouble of fences and signs. Some people, of course, have livestock that must be contained. I understand the need for those fences.
Fences, of course, are expensive to put in and maintain. They may keep some people out, but they certainly discourage the appearance of wildlife. Maybe they’re a response to the need to establish the limits of one’s territory; the so-called territorial imperative. Or maybe it’s just to memorialize that expensive survey.
It’s also possible that people from the city are used to fences and feel that every piece of land should have one.
The irony of it is that people who put up fences and signs are the kind of people who would not trespass, while people who are bent on mischief, vandalism or theft aren’t going to pay any attention to signs and will not be much slowed down by a fence. I don’t think a fence would keep people from taking the tops of my blue spruces for Christmas trees. I’ll bet they go to church, too.
I’ve also noticed that the more recent the acquisition and the smaller the piece of land, the more likely it is to have a fence and be festooned with threatening signs.
Thirty years ago, if someone walked through our property I assumed it was a hiker or someone out for a walk in the forest. But, like many others, I now take a more cautious and probably paranoid approach and presume the person is up to no good. I don’t have much justification for that attitude. Oh, yes, I had to nail shut the door of the Memorial Outhouse because passersby couldn’t resist using it, be we’ve had practically no trouble over the years. I suspect I’ve brought my urban expectations to the mountains and maybe I’m not alone.
I still don’t care very much for fences and signs, though I’m a little more hostile about the signs than the fences.
It seems to me that if you have a six-foot fence with barbed wire on the top that most people will be able to figure out that you don’t want uninvited visitors without seeing a big “Trespassing Strictly Prohibited” sign.
We can probably look forward to more of the same as the land is cut into smaller and smaller pieces.
I don’t have to like it, though.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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