Don’t Fence Me In

The primary reason a farmer builds a fence is to keep his critters in. It’s also to keep the unwanted out. Fences are also used to mark boundaries and property lines so there is no confusion about where one farmer’s corn starts and another’s soybeans end. What these farmers didn’t know was just how much entertainment their fences would provide a certain country kid.

I was a curious child, determined to explore, and my grandpa’s farm was the perfect place to do just that.  Barbed wire, wood, and metal were no match for me. I need to find out what was on the other side of those fences. In most cases it was an animal–pigs, cows, chickens. Sometimes, just an empty pasture or a field of corn or soy beans. Either way, I was not about to be held back by a fence. There were all kinds of new things to discover on the other side and I was pretty certain that whatever it was, was bound to be more interesting than anything I could possibly find to play with in the yard.

So, I climbed over and I crawled through and I explored. I chased the pigs and played with the baby cows until I was called for dinner I got bored, whichever came first.

And no good day of jumping fences came without battle wounds. I can’t even begin to count the times I cut the backs of my legs on barbed wire and there aren’t enough hours in the day to recall all the splinters I’ve picked out of my hands after grabbing a weathered, wooden post. I remember one day, I crawled through the barbed wire fence and, at some point, cut the back of my leg. I was so focused on whatever I was doing at the time that I didn’t notice the blood running down my leg until I got back to the house and grandma asked me what I’d done. I still have the scar behind my knee.

As a photographer, my lens and I are attracted to dilapidated fence posts, those years-abandoned, worn, and filled with character. They are often draped in barbed wire, partially broken, or no longer standing tall and poised with purpose. They are perches for passing birds and resting places for old boots. They remind me that, much like me, creativity can’t be fenced in.

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