Thursday, June 10, 2004


Like many individuals of-- let us not say fugitive-- let us say, rather, independent disposition, I have never liked fences: neither the idea of them nor their physical and psychological implications. To me it is sad that good fences make good neighbors, but having had an ample sufficiency of neighbors in my time and travels I realize it is true in many cases, especially when spaces cost big bucks and serve for self expression; we do like to define our spaces, one neighbor wanting to grow petunias, the other wanting to breed pit bulls. You can choose your friends and your dentist, but not much else.

Under certain circumstances, however, I begin to think more fondly and intensively, in fact lovingly, indeed caressingly (within the law, of course), regarding fences. For example, in regard to monkeys vis-a-vis my vegetables: how splendid are fences then, in their tall and strong nobility, those excellent patriotic barrierthings that do the inyerface to conscienceless hordes of simians that would wantonly rip up and devour my onions tomatoes carrots potatoes, squashes you name it and so forth, not to mention deer after my figs and spinach, or wild pigs rooting up my potatoes and mushrooms, when dearly beloved fences are as old and true friends that surround me with a warm benevolence that warrants the raising of multimugs of wassail at harvest time... But I still don't have a fence.

And now the farmers collective in the village is putting up a vast electrified fence around its entire holdings on the mountainside so as to keep at bay the wild beasts that ravage their rice fields. In ten years living here I have seen only two small ravagings by wild pigs (small since I intervened by passing by), which happened below here a couple years ago, one by a family of pigs, the other by a solo monster. I've never seen such a thing in these higher paddies, and can't see how it warrants these fences.

I'm sure it's an an ancient problem here, though. For the first few years after we moved here, at the height of each rice-growing season the more remote mountain paddies (i.e. those near our house) used to have automatic shotgun-like dischargers that would let off a tremendous blast every fifteen minutes from dusk to dawn, to startle the wild pigs away throughout the night; you had to fall asleep in that 15-minute window, all the while wondering just how close you were to the next blast. For what it's worth, you became a superior judge of the length of 15 minutes. (I haven't found much use for the skill, myself; nobody ever asks you to do it again at parties.) And after you got used to it, when one didn't go off, you'd sit up in bed and say: "What the hell was that?" I guess the Geneva Convention put an end to the night blasters. There are fences of many types.

Fact is, though, most of the ravaging around here has been in my garden, if you ask me, which nobody has, since I'm not in the collective. So all except me will be enclosed in electric fencing supported on high wooden poles, stretched around a mountainside area of some square kilometers, forming a kind of stalag-in-reverse. With fences, you're in or you're out. I'll take the latter, though I do have pinups of the former.


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