As an outfitter's wife you will be expected to learn how to do things you never thought you'd have to learn how to do. Weedeating, bear baiting (see prior post), backing the trailer, driving a stick shift that also has no brakes, doctoring horses, lifting entire giant hay feeders by yourself, splitting 4,000 cords of wood, and FENCING.
I will never forget my first time using a fence stretcher. It was when I was working in Colorado at the Rusty Spurr and my boss, Han, took me over to the Orr Place and gave me a one time quick crash course and left me there to fight it out with the wire and the stretchers and the cutters. I felt so accomplished at the end of that day. Little did I know I had just learned something I should have tried to avoid learning. When my husband later asked me if I knew how to use fence stretchers I should have denied, denied, denied. But stupid me, oh yeah, I can do that! Ha Ha.
Now, fencing is hard enough when your fence is all nice and tidy in a beautiful green grassy field of lush grass that goes on for as far as the eye can see. But when your fence crosses the river twice as well as two creeks and several swampy bogs all the while weaving amongst river willows that are borne of the depths of hell and the fence posts were hand carved back in 1837 and have had at least 400 fencing nails pounded in them .... well then it starts to get fun.
The first time I fixed our fence is when I think I learned how to curse. That time I only had my pony Tuff and our pack pony Jerry for help. What pals. Tuff helped me string wire and paneling across the swollen spring Hoback (even after I had already tried to drown us both in that very river the year before.... whole other story... ) and Jerry stood steady while I unloaded wire and stay posts and stretchers and reloaded them and unloaded them.
A day out there by yourself is good though. You think about a lot of things. Like why the hell did somebody build this fence through this bleepity bleeping willow thicket?!?! You also learn a lot. Like wear sleeves. Even if it's hotter than the Sahara, wear sleeves if you have any regard for the skin on your arms at all. Also, paint all your tools orange, particularly your fencing pliers. You also learn not to try to beat the willows because you will not win. Just tie your hair back, put your head down, and fight your way to the fence. I have tried cutting them back with nippers which is very hard work but seems like a good idea. Next year it will have been worth it, right? Wrong. It's like you pruned them and the next year they come back in double force. You will undoubtedly return home at the end of the day looking like you've been to war.... because you have. You also learn that muck boots seem like a good idea until the water goes over the top. Just wear tennis shoes. Or waders.
Me and Tuff and Jerry have seen some really beautiful days out there though. It's the spring so you often bump into a few new born fawns here and there. And you are certain to see lots of goslings and hissing mother and father gooses. They're pretty fun to watch ride the rapids of the swollen Hoback River. Those little guys can really swim! For a few years I had this beaver that would come to the same spot on the creek bank every year. He'd be laid up there in the sun, on his back with his tail on his belly and I swear if he just had a Budweiser in his hand he could've been a great commercial. Not a care in the world. Just hanging out on a happy spring day. And I've seen some pretty amazing storms roll in and out. Big fluffy clouds that soak you down and make you almost want to head in and then just as quick as they came, they go, often leaving big double rainbows overhead. The best was when I was ducking to go to the other side of the fence to avoid some willows and I spied a morel mushroom. I ended up finding about a pound of them!
So, as much as I complain about the struggle, it's really pretty nice sometimes.
And it's one of those jobs that you really get to see the efforts of your work come together to make something useful. It's a real sense of accomplishment when you turn your horses out for the first time that spring and watch them dive their noses into the new, tender green grass and KNOW (well actually you hope) that you built a fence that will keep them safely and happily on your own grass. (I say HOPE because I'm pretty sure Tuff pays attention when we go fencing and makes mental note of all potential weak spots and takes his friends Happy and Jerry there to test them out.)
This year I am learning a new lesson from fencing. You know that saying about how a good friend will bail you out of jail but a real friend will be in jail with you the next day saying, "Damn, that was fun."? Well I think they've got that all wrong. A REAL friend will come fencing with you. The first time is a big deal but when they come back a second and third day to help you it's true love. And when they wear overalls so they can follow you around and be your tool box or wade through the river in May when the water is high and FREEZING cold to help you pull the wire out of the river so you can restring it... well, I don't even have a word for that.
And then you have someone to chatter with and solve most of the problems of the world.
And the best part of it is that after you're done you have somebody to share that sense of accomplishment with. We did that. We fixed that damned old fence with the rotting posts and the rusty old wire and the boggy, willowy setting and it looks damn good. And now it's done and we can go have a beer!
Thanks gals for the help! Ya'll are the best!