Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Tacking up fences and standing firm...

I wrote this some years ago, but after fencing with Hubs just a couple days ago, I remembered it again and thought I would look it up and share it with you.  Here's a little rambling with the prairie winds.
T. asked me to walk the fence line today and take my hammer along with several fence staples to do a little "tacking up."  It was such a gorgeous day, that I was eager to do the chore for him.  I think of these walks as "spiritual walks" when I can spend a good deal of time to doing some thinking of my own.

As I walked along the fence line, I thought about what I was doing and why.  Besides doing something useful like fixing fence, I figured there might be a lesson in it too. There's just something about doing ordinary things that makes me think about what God might be teaching me through it.

I was focusing so hard on each post as I walked by--checking to see that all the staples were firmly tapped in, checking to see if there were any loose wires where staples had got free and were left them dangling.  I also noticed places where the wires had broken so that I could tell Tom where to go fixing them since I didn’t carry any fixing tools besides a hammer.
Post hole cleaner

I thought of the posts as people.  Each one had a job to do.  Some posts were very old and had been set in the fence line some 40 or 50 years ago.  Even though they were very old and weathered, they were set firmly in the soil and did their job nobly.  They stood.  They were firm in their foundation even though aged.

The root of the righteous will not be moved.  ~Proverbs 12:3

Other posts were old and slightly broken in their places.  The wires were still partially attached, but the poor post was left swaying in the wind.  Even though this post was broken, because it was standing in between two firm posts, it still served a purpose.  We ranchers call this post a "stay" because even though it was loose, it still provided something for the wires to hold on to and still gave a little support between the firm posts.  It wobbled, but it could still give a little support.  Isn’t that like us?  Sometimes we think we don’t have much to offer.  We’re wobbly, but we can still give what we have.  

There were new posts in the fence line that were planted deeply and whose wires were stapled firmly on.  They didn't waver nor did they totter.  Some of the new posts however, did have a loose staple and some had a few staples missing.  They were doing their job of standing, but needed a little tacking here and there.  They needed my gentle tapping to firm up their hold on the wires.  Sometimes I need a little tapping, a little assistance in doing my job.  It might even hurt a little when God needs to send a sharp staple into me, but it’s for the good of the whole.

I thought how important it is for all the posts to be "in line."  If they were not in line with one another, it caused undue stress upon the wires which were to keep cattle and sheep either in or out of the pasture.  And what was the main job of all the posts?  To stand.  To stand firm and hold fast, keeping in line with the others where the Fence Builder had set them.
“Stand firm therefore, having girded your loins with the truth..."   
Ephesians 6:14
I could see that in areas where the posts were set in low places, the snow would tear the wires off or would cause the posts to be loosened from the soil.  The cows would sometimes rub on the wires and loosen them too.  How often are we loosened from our firm standing?   Sometimes it's a cold snow bank we are standing in.  Sometimes it's a big Hereford bull that rubs us down relentlessly.  Sometimes it's a spring creek that rises and floods through the fence and loosens the staples and causes our standing to be fairly useless  until someone (a friend, a stranger, God) comes along and tacks us up, presses us back into the soil where we were set, and anchors us down with a little wire and another stub posts here or there.  Those of us set in hard places like that need a little more support around us to keep on standing and holding up the fence.

"To his own master he stands or falls; and stand he will, 
for the Lord is able to make him stand."  Romans 14:4
Some fence posts are put in less stressful places where there is less pressure from the cattle or the weather.  There’s a lot less fence fixing in these areas.  Not all of us will be required to do the same job or to stand under the same pressures.  It’s all in the hands of the Fence Builder.

Some posts were made of steel rather than wood.  Some ranchers make entire fences of steel and add a wooden brace every so often, but at our ranch, we consider them less than "the best."  Steel posts certainly are easier to set, but they tend to pull out more easily than the wooden ones that require more labor to set.  Some of these posts lose their place in the fence much faster than the long, hefty wooden posts that can be set more deeply.  Steel posts do the job, but their life expectancy is shorter.

"Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, 
act like men, be strong."  ~1 Corinthians 16:13
A pic I took in western Montana
Then there are what I call the dead posts.  I don’t know if everyone calls them that, but I do.  They have come totally free from the fence line.  They are sometimes found lying flat on the ground.  Some are falling close to the ground, hanging by a single staple.  One little push from a sheep would topple them over.  Some are old posts that have been tacked and re-tacked and then end up breaking and leaving holes in the fence.  Others are simply poor quality posts that can’t stand up under the pressure  and some posts aren't set deeply enough to support the fence.  There are perfectly good posts that get into accidents where one cow pushes another into the fence and the post snaps and breaks. I'm fond of the very old, gnarled and twisted cedar posts that have so much character.  I often bring them back home with me and put them around my gardens. Others end up as firewood for winter.  When their time has come and they have fulfilled their purpose, we gather up the old and dead and put in new posts to stand in their places.  Does that sound like a life cycle?  I think so.  See how much thinking a girl can do when she's left to herself to walk a fence line?

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to tear down and a time to build up…." ~Ecclesiastes 3:1,3


  1. G'day Gumbo Lily. That is a lovely post. I can relate to the fences as I sometimes went with hubby to check our fences when we had the farm and I usually enjoyed doing it. Take care. Liz...

  2. Wonderful, wise words. Thank you for sharing with us Jody. xx

  3. Excellent post Mom. I never thought of that while fencing. Leave it to you to see a life lesson behind everything! :)

  4. Great post Jody! Grace is right, leave it to you to find a life lesson in everyday tasks.

  5. What wise words my friend. I know nothing about fence posts--the real kind---but now I do. But more importantly, I received a life lesson today. Thanks friend!

  6. I love it when out of our daily life we have such wonderful examples of God. I will be thinking of that today.Thanks

  7. I love your daughter's comment, Jody!
    This reminds me of Wendell Berry.

  8. What a wonderful post and I love how you see things xoxo Clarice-who feels very wobbly

  9. Lovely post Jody! Love your analogy of posts and we, as Christians, standing firm. Good encouragement my friend!

  10. Wonderful post, Jody. I esp. like the part about the "stays." Often we feel we are not contributing, that we are weak and ineffectual. But we need to be supported by those around us, and we are still useful, and simply need some repair. Thanks.

  11. This is a fantastic post! I love the analogy you've made to our lives and our faith. You do have lots of thinking time. Enjoy!



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