Monday, August 8, 2011
We’ve lived in our house in suburban St. Louis for 25 years this month. It occupies a corner lot. For various and sundry zoning reasons and setback requirements, the house isn’t centered on the lot, so a big chunk of the yard is front yard and side yard.
It wasn’t an ideal lot, but it was close to ideal for a fence. But not just any kind of fence. It had to be a “pretty fence.” And it became a story in two parts.
The Fence, Part 1: My wife worked with a garden designer who specialized in historic gardens, and a landscape expert so we’d know what to plant and where. The fence would be constructed of redwood. And it would have a main arched gate and posts that looked like something out a Victorian magazine.
This was an “event” in the neighborhood. Most people were curious. An adjoining neighbor was moving to another city, and they were nervous. Their house was for sale, and somehow they got it into their heads that our fence would keep them from selling their house.
Everyone, including the nervous neighbor, knew that construction would start at the end of May. The day came. The construction crew arrived with the pieces of fence. Holes were dug for the posts. Concrete readied. Posts were placed.
The nervous neighbor freaked. The wife nearly became hysterical and made a scene. More than once, too. She went door-to-door in the neighborhood, ranting. No one understood what the problem actually was, but whatever it was, it was huge.
The only clue we had was when our neighbors suddenly started tearing down the stockade fence they had for their backyard. Apparently, the pretty fence was going to make the stockade fence look shabby. However, the stockade fence didn’t need the pretty fence to make it look shabby. It looked shabby enough all on its own.
The fence went in. A few weeks later, the neighbors sold their house and moved out of state.
We learned that Robert Frost was wrong: fences do not necessarily make good neighbors.
The Fence, Part 2: The fence was gorgeous, literally a traffic stopper. It became something of a landmark in our area, perfect for giving directions (“It’s just two streets past the big white fence”).
It wasn’t long after it was installed, however, that we noticed the white stain was flaking in places. We didn’t think stain was supposed to flake. Lots of phone calls and several visits later, we discovered what the problem was.
To give it a finished look, the carpenter had planed the redwood. It did give the wood a finished look. It also sealed the wood. The wood wouldn’t hold a stain, or paint, or anything. It was like Teflon. Thus began a saga lasting years. I scraped, sandpapered and stained. And painted. Countless others did as well. The pretty fence needed constant attention and upkeep.
Finally, after more than a decade, we discovered some posts were rotting. They would need to be replaced or torn down. We did both. The famous fence was torn down, and replaced with one that looked very similar, except the main gate wasn’t arched. The posts, though, looked almost identical to the original.
The difference was – the new fence was plastic.
I love that plastic fence. And it’s still a landmark.
This post is submitted to the One Word Blog Carnival hosted by Peter Pollock. The prompt is "fences," and to see more posts based on the prompt, please visit Peter's site. The links will be live at 10 p.m. Central time tonight.