Sunday, October 25, 2009

Fence that almost existed

Back in August 2008, in an article entitled Homo faber [display], I spoke about electric fences whose stakes are steel rods surmounted by white nylon insulators referred to as pigs' tails. I pointed out that, once such a stake is hammered into the earth, it's hard to remove it, and I evoked the necessity of some kind of stake removal tool. In fact, I've got used to performing this task by means of an outstretched heavy-weight wire-cutter posed upon a rock.

Electric fences (apparently invented in New Zealand) are ideal for the donkeys, because the animals are smart enough to understand that it's preferable to avoid getting stung by the 10-thousand-volt impulses. At this time of the year, before feeding the donkeys with sliced apples (after eliminating any wasps), I always turn off the charger:

If I forget to turn it back on, the donkeys are smart enough to realize pretty quickly that there's no electricity in the ribbon. At that point, of course, they're capable of strolling to the wrong side of the fence.

A few months ago, a Choranche neighbor informed me that he intended to run a few horses on the slopes on the far side of Gamone Creek, which still belong to the old fellow, Marcel Gauthier, who sold me my property. I advised my neighbor to adopt my fencing solution of steel stakes, but he wasn't particularly impressed by the idea. Subsequently, my neighbor and his son spent a few days installing a large number of wooden fence-posts around their future horse paddock. After all, when you've got a sturdy son who can use a chain-saw to cut down saplings and trim them into fence-posts, and a tractor to transport the posts, why spend money on steel stakes?

At the time, I was surprised by this project of a horse paddock. Although I didn't say so to my neighbor, I have a fairly good knowledge of the attitudes and behavior of Marcel Gauthier, and I found it hard to believe that he would allow somebody like my neighbor to install an electric fence and run horses on his land.

The weeks rolled by, and I noticed that there were still no horses on the slopes opposite my house. So, I thought there must be some kind of a hitch. This afternoon, for the first time in ages, I strolled up the slopes with Sophia, and I was amazed to discover that all the fence-posts had disappeared into thin air, leaving no traces. I conclude therefore that Marcel must have vetoed my neighbor's project. Fair enough. But why did my neighbor go to the trouble of removing all the fence-posts that he had installed so laboriously? And when and how did he carry out this huge post-removal task? Concerning the latter questions, I imagine that he knocked over each post with his tractor, probably when I was in Brittany for a week. And why didn't he simply leave the posts there? I have an idea concerning this question. The saplings that the son cut down to produce these posts were growing, I think, on that patch of land belonging to Marcel. Consequently, I would imagine that my neighbor suddenly realized that Marcel, having refused the idea of allowing my neighbor to go ahead with his horse project, might be furious if ever he were to discover that some of his saplings had been cut down and used as fence-posts. So, it was no doubt preferable to remove the evidence.

I'm one of the few individuals in Choranche who has never been in any kind of conflict with Marcel, no doubt because I purchased my Gamone property from him. In any case, I'm amazed that a farmer such as my neighbor, a native of Choranche who should know everything that can be possibly known about this commune and its land-owners, would have imagined for an instant that he could simply cut down saplings, erect a fence and run horses on Marcel's land. Normally, no intelligent person who was vaguely familiar with Marcel could ever believe seriously in the feasibility of such a project. So, I don't know what went wrong with my neighbor's faculties of judgment.

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