The other morning I woke up thinking about barbed wire fencing. It wasn’t a grand dream of a “sweeping American West being settled by rugged pioneers” type of thinking. I was remembering the way I spent many summer days, growing up in northern Nebraska ranch country. I was thinking of steel posts and Goldenrod wire stretchers, “dead man” posts and spools of barbed wire rolled out across high grass and clumps of dark, fertile soil. I was thinking of the benchmark of supreme fence building; i.e., looking down the fence line and only seeing “one” post. Foremost, I was thinking about the V-shaped wire post clips used to attach the stretched wire to the steel posts. It was usually my job to carry the metal bucket containing the clips, and hand them to the person attaching the wire to the posts. The clips are like elbows that hug the wire to the post, and a screwdriver (or similar tool) is positioned between the end of the clip and the wire so that it can then be twisted securely around the barbed wire. Done properly, this “elbow hug” will retain a secure grip for years. Evidently, my first-hand viewing and participation in this fluid, mesmerizing process has left an indelible mark on my brain.
I suppose there are a number of metaphors and illustrations to be found in this memory. If the white picket fence is a symbol of quaint, peaceful American living, what conclusions can be drawn about a suburban housewife who is more comfortable with steel posts and barbed wire? And does the way the V-clip hugs the taut wire resemble the way a parent’s elbow must sometimes firmly embrace a stiff-necked child? Maybe the memory just speaks to the force of repetitive actions, which occur during our malleable youth.