One spring afternoon while living in the city of Abilene, I was burning off some pampas grass in my backyard.

The flames must have been pretty high as my neighbor Jim Nuss peeked over his fence, similar to Mr. Wilson on “Home Improvement”, and asked, “Is everything alright?”

It was. However, from that point on I didn’t burn the pampas grass but instead tied it up and cut it off with hedge clippers.

Sitting on the patio the other day looking across the field at the fence that my Dad built with hedge posts got me thinking about fences.

Fences do two things. They keep things in and they keep things out.

They also are the subject of many disagreements between neighbors, both in rural and city areas.

Fences probably fueled the Hatfield-McCoy feud about the same time barbed wire was being put up in Kansas.

My mother-in-law Doreen recalls German prisoners of war, while on farm work detail in Cloud County, peeking over a fence as she and other elementary students played ball during recess back in the 1940s.

Growing up on the hobby farm south of Abilene, one of the first things we learned was how to put up and fix barbed wire fence.

Dad often put cattle in a field using an electric fence to keep them in. On a day-to-day basis that worked pretty well, that is, until the horn of a semi, a lightning strike or something else startled the cattle.

So one summer weekend Dad decided to put in a barbed wire fence, using hedge for posts. Naturally that involved digging post holes.

There was no 811 to call then. In fact, we had a party line when phone numbers were more like 26w1.

To this day you can see where Dad’s straight line of fence got out of line. That’s when the auger hit a powerline.

One would have thought there was an active shooter at Brown’s Home. When their power went out, several deputies for the Dickinson County Sheriff Department arrived to find out what happened.

I think they even brought an ambulance with them.

Living in rural Dickinson County now, we don’t have a fence and our dog Maggie doesn’t have a shock collar.

But she knows her boundaries.

That is the result of great dog training and I’m giving all the credit to Kathy.

Naturally, on occasion, Maggie takes off after a rabbit, coyote or deer but never ventures too far from her boundaries.

While living in Abilene, our home had a six foot wooden privacy fence and our dog Twister had a doggie door in the sunroom. She could come and go as she pleased and we made sure to not leave food near the door to invite other varmints in like raccoons or opossums.

One morning we woke up to find that the Kansas wind had blown down a portion of our wooden fence during the storm the night before.

Go figure!

We hurried outside to look for Twister. There she was, sitting in the grass staring at the fallen fence section. She knew her boundaries, fence or no fence.

Such was not the case for two unfamiliar dogs we found sitting on our front porch one Saturday spring evening when Kathy and I returned to our rural home.

Both were wearing shock collars. Perhaps their owner should have used an old-fashioned fence instead.

Contact Tim Horan at

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