Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Electric Fence

The electric fence was a great invention.The cows and horses respected it.I had to learn to do that too.
            Fencing was a great time for me as a small boy.Every year we had lots to do repairing the old fences,tightening the wires,fixing holes,taking out old broken cedar posts and putting in new ones.Every spring we had to put a new fence across the ditch.The spring floods would break the old one and carry it away so we usually took it up in the fall and set it well back from the ditch bank and tied it up to the fence there,then replaced it in the spring.
            We would load all the fencing tools onto the light wagon,shovels,an axe,a sledge hammer,a heavy iron crow bar,a buck saw,and the post hole digger.This was a one man unit.It looked like a shovel with another shovel attached to it by a lever.There was a smaller curved shovel at the end.You pulled the lever handle up and dropped the two shovels in the hole,then you pushed the lever handle down and pulled the shovels out of the hole. The shovel full of dirt was captured between the two shovels.Open up the lever again and drop the earth on the ground.We would load some cedar post onto the light wagon.We would put on a roll of barbed wire,some heavy brace wire,and some light electric wire.We had an old sap bucket with a wire handle in it we would carry our steeples and nails in this bucket.It held the fencing tools too,a hammer,pinchers and a steeple puller.Our steeple puller was made out of a heavy old file that had been put on the forge,heated red hot and shaped to a sharp pointed end on one side the back of this made round and flat.When you hit the round and flat side with the hammer the pointed end would be driven into the cedar post behind the wire and the steeple so you just had to yank back on the handle and pull the steeple out of the post. This steeple puller was a heavy piece of an old file and it worked well for all the years I was farming.
            Another piece of fencing equipement was the rope block and tackle.It was used to stretch and tighten the wire.There were a couple of steel clamps with a round ring on the end of them.You hooked the clamps onto the wire about 20 feet apart then hooked the ends of the block and tackle to the rings on the ends of the clamps pulled on the rope and tightened the wire fence,then drove the staples tight in the cedar post on the the wires which would hold the wire fence tight.I remember you always had to  untangle the rope on the bock and tackle and set it up straight without any twists in the rope or the rope would bind and you could not get it working.In later years we had a jack all jack with a handle on it .It was a lot easier to use to tighten the fence.
            Once we had all the fencing equipment on the light wagon we would hook the horse to it.Then dad, the hired man and I were ready to go fence  fixing.We would sit on the light wagon and go riding back the long lane,open a gate at the ditch,open a gate on the other side of the ditch bank till we came to the field where we wanted to fix the fence.Our collie dog laddie ,was always running along side the wagon.He might stop at a groundhog’s hole to see if he might catch himself supper.
            I might have been five or six when we went  to work on this electric fence.This was something new to me.It was just one strand of wire attached to the cedar posts with a white insulator nailed to the post and the wire sitting on it .You took a short piece of wire and wired the wire sitting on the insulator so it would not fall off. If the long wire touched the wooden post the current running through the wire fence would be grounded.The power for the electric fence was contained  in a steel box about a foot long eight inches wide and ten inches high.There was a six volt battery in here and the mechanical workings of the fencer.A wire was fastened from the fencer to a steel rod in the ground to ground  the fence.When you turned the fencer on you would hear the steady tick,tick, tick,tick.If you wanted to get through the electric gate you would turn off the fencer then unhook the single wire gate,then hook the gate up again then turn back on the fencer.I guess my dad wanted to play a trick on me and test the fence.As I said I was new to the electric fence.He said pick up this short piece of wire and touch it to the wire fence.I did.I got an electric shot running up one hand and arm and down the other.I said ow ow and jumped from one foot to the other still holding onto the wire. I got a good shock and dad and the hired man got a good laugh.It took me quite a while to realize that I should drop that wire.I guess the cattle got the same shocks as I did because they soon learned like I to respect that one strand of wire fence.I can still remember that sunny day yet.