Culture | Garden and Home | Lifestyle | Poetry

Good Fences

There where it is we do not need the wall:
He is all pine and I am apple orchard.
My apple trees will never get across
And eat the cones under his pines, I tell him.
He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.’
Spring is the mischief in me, and I wonder
If I could put a notion in his head:
‘Why do they make good neighbors? Isn’t it
Where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
Before I built a wall I’d ask to know
What I was walling in or walling out,
And to whom I was like to give offense.
– Robert Frost, Mending Wall

It happened once, and it seemed awkward at the time. The neighbor walked between his fence and my fence to retrieve golf balls he’d been chipping beyond his fence. He quietly picked them up, we waved at each other and the moment ended. Except that it didn’t really end. The neighbor now works from home in a pandemic on conference calls all day, head set on, chipping golf balls back and forth in his yard. And so this scene is repeated several times a day.

You might be wondering why there are two fences up. Well, that’s a good question with a reasonable answer. The folks that originally put up the neighbor’s fence put it up four feet inside the property line, and had it curved slightly to follow the tree line. A few years later we got a black lab who liked to explore the neighborhood on his terms. We installed a black chain link fence around the perimeter of our yard to discourage this, thinking it blended in with the woods beyond. The dog was mostly contained, the trees between the fences obscured the unusual nature of two fences running parallel to each other. Mission accomplished! Who thinks of Arnold Palmer straying into your personal space at moments like that?

Fast forward fifteen years and the brush and small trees are cleared out. The neighbors have changed over twice. The dog has since passed. All that remains is the cold reality of a pair of fences quietly marking time. And the frequent moments of the golfer gathering his golf balls while on his conference calls on the edge of our back yard. A back yard that for twenty years offered the illusion of privacy with the woods beyond.

It’s my own fault, really. I mentioned in passing one day that the land between was his, and Kilroy has since taken great pains to stake his claim to it with errant golf balls and purposeful walks to scoop them up. It seems passive aggressive to me, like running a lawn tractor in your driveway when your neighbor is having a birthday party. Wait, that’s him too…

If this seems like a justification for building a taller fence, well, it may be. Wouldn’t that be something, two privacy fences running parallel to each other along the yard? Frost’s old neighbor would say good fences make good neighbors. And Frost would rightly question, just what are we walling in and walling out?

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply