Growing up on Berney Drive in Walla Walla I learned a lot about fences. The man who built our house, Ralph Bramlet, brought a load of lodge pole from his land in Dixie, Idaho. I was given the job of peeling bark and painting a sealant and holding the poles while we built the lodge pole corral at my folk’s house. Over my backyard fence, pastured by the lodge poles was a big Quarter Horse Thoroughbred cross named Shawna Alate. She was my first backyard fence connection. We spent all of my free time together.
The fence around the house was woven cedar boards. My mom stained it red. Every few years she would don old clothes and a shower cap to protect her hair and paint. I was supposed to help but ended up spilling a lot of expensive stain. What did I care. For me, it was fun to go to Van Patten’s Lumberyard to purchase more stain. I had a haircut just like the little kid on the Dutchboy paint can. I pretended it was me.
On the other side of Shawna’s pasture was the Fazzari’s. They had a short white fence so I had to keep a hot wire up so Shawna would not eat the petunias growing along the their fenceline. I played a lot with the two younger boys, Greg and Rod. As we grew up, all four boys and their mom Marie worked at my parents’s drive-in, the Ice Burg.
Greg and I developed this saying:
“Meet you at the fence at midnight”
“I’ll bring the wine”
“I’ll bring the glasses”
And once, after high school, we actually met at the fence at midnight.
No one believes I was a rascally kid, but I was. There are lots of stories about me sneaking into the school on weekends and even one about me escaping out the second floor drama room window and breaking the fall on the awning over the door of the Ala Room and falling into the flower bed…but believe what you will..this next story is true.
My friend in shenanigans was none other than Dawn Adams. Imagine that. We loved sneeking around. I think it started at 4-H camp. One night I snuck over the backyard fences of all the neighbors on one side of her street. She watched. I was good! No one switched on lights. Only a few dogs barked. I thought I had a great future ahead as a climber of fences. But I was told to keep my day job.
Walking along the French way of the Camino de Santiago in Spain, there were many types of fences. We also met animals that roamed without any fences. A few fences come to my mind…and these thoughts have nothing to do with shenanigans, Dutch boy paint or meeting at the fence at midnight.These fences brought special meaning to the walk.
It was another spectacular day on the Camino. We left Astorga as soon as we could see the yellow arrows painted on pavement, signs and curbs to guide us out of the city. I have walked this way before and I remembered these places..
We passed the modern church and wondered why the woman holding the chalice and host in one hand is blindfolded. We visited the small road side chapel and well of “living water” where the drowning boy was saved by his mother’s pleas to Jesus. We walked across the countryside and farm land and into the rolling hills and then into the mountains. I walked quietly. I listened to the stories around me, the stories of heartaches, infidelity, abuse, alcoholism, divorce, addictions, loss of children and parents and siblings…I carried all this for awhile until I could listen no more and I pushed ahead by myself. I entered an oak forest. A fence ran alongside the trail. Woven into the fence were crosses….big and little. I wanted to place my own cross there, but there were so many crosses there was no room to add new ones. I wanted to build a new fence so I could make more crosses. With no materials available I hung the sorrows I heard on the crosses that were already there. Then I thought of all of my friends at home who have followed my journey with Parkinson’s. I said their (your) names and saw their (your) faces and hung their (your) sorrows on those crosses.
As the trail joined the highway I said goodbye to the sorrows. It was good to leave all the pain behind. Out in the sunshine now I turned my thoughts to the joys and celebrations and births and graduations and anniversaries. I thought of how much I love Charlie and Luke and Loren and Maryhelen and Laura and her beautiful Mariska and how much I miss my dad and my mom. I was sobbing in joy and relief when I walked into Rabinal with Karen. Janet and Mary Jo and Deb and other friends I met along the way were there to greet me. It was a most amazing day. I wrote on the Facebook note “I am spent and full and empty all at once.”
Fences keep things in. Fences keep things out. But not me. I can climb over.