Mending fences – part two
By A. Ray Lee
In 1941 the J. J. Lee family moved onto a tract of basically undeveloped land near the end of a wagon trail. Through an FHA program, we were able to purchase our own farm. There was no down payment required and the mortgage payment would come due once a year in the fall when the crops had been harvested. `At the time I was five years old with two older brothers. We had moved into an old house much like the ones we had left behind. It was abutted by a log barn in need of extensive repair. In due time a new house and barns were built. In 1945 another brother was born and at a young age was added to the work crew. Over the years the family labored together to make every acre of the land productive.
We worked the soil consistent with its nature. The red land dirt provided excellent soil for cotton, and I spent more time in those fields than I like to remember. The black bottom land, although reluctantly yielding to the plow, when patiently worked produced hay for the cows, corn for the teams, and feed for the chickens and hogs which were so necessary for the food they provided. The wooded acres yielded fuel for the cook stove and the fireplace. There were a number of adjourning acres containing stumps and marshy spots that became a pasture.
There were many ongoing projects through the years in addition to working the row crops, but there were basic things we had to see to in the beginning. A barn lot had to be laid out for an enclosure where the animals would gather for the night. Sturdy fences enclosing a pasture were necessary to restrain the stock from straying and running free. They could destroy a vegetable garden in short order and do great damage to young crops. More than once poor fences have been the source of hot dissension between neighbors when damage has occurred to property by another man’s cows.
There were times through the years we walked the fence line with hammer, wire, and staples in hand searching for weak spots where cows had thrust their heads between the wires trying to reach the greener grass on the other side. Occasionally we needed to replace a broken post and an entire section as a preventive measure. When electricity reached Lee Road, we added another strand of wire and attached it to a charger. We knew the necessity of keeping the boundaries of a pasture strong to keep our stock where they belonged less they strayed and damaged a neighbor’s crop or feasted on his winter’s supply of beans and peas in his garden.
New England farmer-poet Robert Frost wrote a poem entitled “Mending Fences” in which he states, “Good fences make good neighbors.” In it, he describes how he and a neighbor walked the length of a fence that separated their properties mending it where
needed. An intact fence assured that they would remain neighborly in character and in actions. They would respect boundaries both physical and personal which separated them.
Although he wrote in the distant past when life seemed less complicated he understood the nature of relationships between people. He wrote not only of physical boundaries, but he also recognized the necessity for personal boundaries and his responsibility toward others to respect those boundaries. They, like fences, are guardians and must be considered in relationships. When those boundaries are broached, it is time to mend some fences.
The apostle Paul has reminded us that no one lives unto themselves. Have you crossed relational boundaries with others? Do you have any fences needing to be mended? This would be a good time to begin.