We’re keeping a close eye on our new neighbor these days. You see, he’s building a fence on his property. In most cases the only discussion neighbors have about fences is who pays for what, or how the fence will look on either side. But this situation’s more complicated. Our neighbor doesn’t realize the driveway separating he and me is not right on the property line. If his new fence line marches down his side of the driveway, he’s actually claiming several square yards of our property.
Here’s a story you never hear, certainly not in the United States. A Belgian farmer was working on his property and decided to move a giant rock in one of his fields. Several days later, federal authorities knocked on his front door. Turns out, moving that rock adjusted the border of Belgium. Our farmer moved one rock (as it turns out, a 300-year-old stone marker) and singlehandedly increased the size of his country by 1,000 square meters. The very sovereignty of his nation was called into question. Neighboring France was not thrilled.
So it is with my neighbor. Unless he has a plot plan on hand he’ll unknowingly increase the size of his property while decreasing mine. But that’s why we put up fences, right? A fence specifies property; a literal landmark to indicate, “this is mine”. That’s just for starters because we use fences for a lot of other reasons.
If I’m guessing right, my neighbor needs a fence to keep horses (or other livestock) between his house and the edges of his property. His animals will be shut in from adjacent roads and lands. Good luck with that, friend. Most people around here seem to have breaks in their fences (if they have fences at all). Not a day goes by where someone doesn’t post a notice on our neighborhood’s electronic newsletter about animals on the loose. This morning’s alert concerned a bunch of cows grazing peacefully… on the wrong property. You can’t blame ’em if “the grass is greener on the other side”, right?
Last week on our vacation to Charleston, South Carolina, we drove down streets full of the town’s characteristic row houses, with tasteful pastel colors and two-story side “piazza” porches. We also walked by stately antebellum mansions in the waterfront “south of Broad” neighborhood. Each of these estates was surrounded by high gates and brick walls, an obvious nod to security. Yes, these palaces were beautiful, but their surrounding “fences” seemed to declare, “keep out”. So we did.
Here’s another need for fences. At last Saturday’s Triple Crown Belmont Stakes in New York, the eight thoroughbreds were guided – and in one case pushed – into the starting gate before the race began. In the split second where the horses were all in a row, each standing in a sort of starting cage, there was structure. Once they burst out of the gate, all horses and riders shifted to the left, jockeying chaotically for prime position on the rail. Imagine the start of that race without that starting “fence”. Disorder with a capital “D”.
Some fences don’t even need a physical definition. Picture your city streets without lane markings (as if you lived in India). All cars would tend to compete for the best position, just like those Belmont Stakes horses. Horns would honk and road rage would rise to new levels. Roll down your window and throw out any sense of safety.
I leave you with one final fence. The shuttered Cal Neva Lodge and Casino overlooking Lake Tahoe straddles the border between California and Nevada. A solid line on the floor splits the dining room and then the swimming pool, to indicate which state you’re dining or soaking in. Drink on one side of the line; drink and gamble on the other. I just hope the hotel’s current remodel doesn’t include relocating the pool. California might become even bigger!
Some content sourced from the CNN Travel article, “Belgian farmer moves border with France by mistake”.