Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Down on the Farm: New Fences

Me, "outstanding" in our hayfield.  If you look to my right, you can barely see the fence along our driveway.

Richard, my husband, takes great pride in his fences.  When we moved here to Birdseye, we built our house first, and then the fences went in.  And, not just any fences.  Great effort was put into perfectly straight, tight fences, strong, geometrically designed H-braces, and precisely balanced gates.  Not a post is out of place.  These straight lines are Richard's pride and joy. 

The meticulous line of our fences around our hayfield had finally been completed after many hours of sweat and hard work, countless dollars in cedar posts, metal posts, net fence, and barb wire, and numerous scratches and puncture wounds.  As we'd drive up our driveway, along which ran the south side of the well-planned endeavor of perfection, Richard would hesitate, just admiring his flawless accomplishment.  This admiration lasted for about a week.  And then came the night when all that changed.

When we moved here, we were oblivious to the fact that the elk claimed this ground as their grazing land of choice.  We had 80 to 100 elk come every night for the fine dining found on the Daybell ranch.  (One of the first fences to go in surrounded our haystack so we would have feed left for our own animals!)  At nights, we could take our spotlight outside our back door and shine it in the sagebrush behind the house and see hundreds of glowing eyes.  It was so cool!

One night I was up a little later and could hear the cow elk snorting as they called to their calves.  It sounded as if they were right out on the front lawn!  I quietly opened the front door and standing three feet from me was a cow elk.  I was lucky enough to have an almost-full moon, and the night was glowing.  In all, there were at least five elk on the lawn, twenty or so just beyond the yard, and it sounded like an indefinite number of them out in the hayfield.  The sound was so awesome!  You could hear them breathing, and moving around.  We'd frequently found fresh manure right on our lawn, but had never witnessed the culprits.

I silently closed the door and ran and got Richard out of bed.  He had to see this!  We, again, quietly opened the door and there they all were.  It was so exciting and exhilarating to see them so close!  They were so big when you were standing right next to them!  It felt like we were in a Jurassic Park movie and everything was just moving around us. 

We turned on the porch light, just to get a reaction.  The closest elk warily moved just off the lawn and many animals looked up at us so we could see their glowing eyes, but other than that, they didn't seem scared.

I decided I would make a noise, just to see them move a little.  I sounded off a little yip.  All of the heads around us jerked up.  One elk started to move which alerted the others and before we knew it, thundering sounded out as the whole herd began running.  And then we heard it.  The high-pitched "PING" made from the elk running into Richard's great source of pride and joy, his beloved fence.  It was so loud and echoing in the cool night air.  In the dark, many of the wild animals must have just been running so fast, they missed seeing the fence.  We could barely make out the shadows of many animals sailing over the barrier, but the rest were bouncing off the wires, like some teenage alligator dance.  With each sound, I cringed, and I didn't even want to know what Richard was thinking.

After the rumble ended and the "PING"ing stopped, I hesitantly peeked over at Richard from the corner of my eye.  His face registered unbelief, his stance, defeat.

"Whoops," I quietly squeaked out.

His suggestion we go to bed was quickly accepted and we silently walked to the room.

The next day, after a few hours of re-tightening some sections of barb wire and straightening some of the net fence, the average eye could see only perfection again.  If you look closely, though, you can see where a thundering herd bounced off in a few places.

Needless to say, for my husband, the novelty of the elk in our hayfield quickly wore off.  For me, not so much.  In my dreams, I still see their warm breath in the cool air, hear the "mew" sound as they call to each other, and feel the rumble as hundreds of hooves trample the frosty ground.  I frequently turn on the outside light before I go to bed, hoping to get a glimpse of their glowing soft eyes in the darkness.  But they are gone.

Perhaps they sense the hostility that ruining another fence would bring; or perhaps it just isn't worth the pain they would inflict on themselves from running into such a well-engineered barrier.  Whatever, the reason, they have moved on to other hayfields and left ours to our own herds of domestic animals.

3 comments:

  1. What an extraordinary story! This so foreign to me, surrounded as I am by houses in the centre of town, but it sounds fabulous.

    Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro.

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  2. Oh what a lovely story! I just finished reading 'Bird Cloud' by Annie Proulx and was fascinated to read about the elk in Wyoming. We don't have elk in Australia (I don't think we do?) but I went to my sisters farm once and was equally as excited when we had to drive slowly to let a huge group of Kangaroos pass our car as we approached her property.
    I look forward to reading more of your stories. I teach Kindergarten, so I am going to read that post next :)
    Thanks for sharing your story. Clare

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  3. "Whoops" - I love it. A wonderful story beautifully told. I'm sorry the elk don't come anymore, but it's probably for the best. :)

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Thank you so much for sharing. It makes my day!

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