Picture the “good servant”, working within the given boundaries, doing well – to the limit – precisely to the boundary. Others may define their own job, own goal or boundaries, regardless of their “employer” or “client”. Still others stay well away from the fences to avoid criticism, or bunch up against a fence or in a corner, seeking the safety of a known limit while setting the other boundaries within themselves.
Wyoming is a “fence out” State. In other words, if you do not want your neighbors cattle, horses, dogs or children on your property, you must provide the fence that keeps them out, at your expense but still subject to regulations on construction (the wrong fence construction can overly impede wildlife migration, exacerbate injury to stock, or look pretty darned ugly!).
Other locales are “fence in” jurisdictions, where you are responsible for containing your critters on your land and off of your neighbors property or public roads.
There are all sorts of ramifications to “fence out” and “fence in”, as well as practical considerations and emergency provisions. Leaving a gate open after passing through is an egregious crime against the fence owner, whose stock may then pass through onto an adjacent road and be killed, often while killing occupants of passing vehicles that hit them.
Pulitzer Price winning author Gretel Ehrlich wrote that, in the high plains range country in a big winter blizzard, the cattle herd often moves with the scourging wind until halted by a fence (a physical boundary). Halted in their move to escape, the herd will turn to face the storm and, as a result, may drown as the clouds of snow envelop them, are inescapably inhaled into their lungs, and melt. The wise caretakers cut the fences and keep the cattle moving with the wind until the storm abates. The good neighbor understands this necessity for survival and works with them (I’ve lost the publication citation for this recollection – if you have it, please comment with it and I will edit it into this post).
Just be sure to immediately repair your neighbor’s fence when the storm abates!
Also, in the harsh winter, the trees may suffer terribly from thirst. Although snow may pile high around, it is crystalline, not liquid, and cannot be absorbed.
Vital resources are all around us in great plenty, but we thirst, struggle and perhaps die because we are not allowed or refuse to use them in the form and place that they are available. Sometimes we stubbornly refuse to use “given” resources within the boundaries that we have, refusing out of fear of being accused of ambition or of looking over the fence at greener pastures, or out of vainglory.
Sometimes the resources are overly plentiful, but we have not prepared ourselves to separate the useful from the tempting yet killing overload – a gluttony of ideas, relationships, things, opportunities or grief and pain, but we refuse to cut the fence to escape the deluge or our mentors and peers refuse in their deadly exercise of “power and control”.
These boundaries, and our reactions to them, can paint a grim picture of life. However, the point is not to wallow in despair behind one’s own fences, or to break through driven by avarice and greed for what is not healthy or wise. Instead, give consideration to what constitutes the fences in your life. Are they a safe boundary to keep you from the danger of things beyond – whether from others, the environment, or from your temptation by foolishness? Are the fences a control set in place by yourself or by others to limit your response to wise teaching, counsel, growth and healthy relationships?
Sometimes, the fences are invisible, like our humane dog fence or Les Nessman’s office in the television show WKRP in Cincinnati. At other times they are very physical walls of space, health, environment or relationships.
After determining the nature of your fences, and differentiating the beneficial ones from the detrimental ones, start repairing the good and tearing down the bad. Sometimes, a “good neighbor gate” may be installed – just remember to always close and latch it when you use it!
If you absolutely need to build a fence, first make certain that your “neighbors” understand the need and that it is truly beneficial. And remember,
Don’t fence me in!