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Learning Which Fences to Hop

Aaron McHugh

I’ve always hopped fences. I guess my curiosity and spirit of adventure are stronger than my fear of getting caught on the wrong side of the fence. In college inspired by the movie Stand By Me, I convinced my roommates to go on an overnight adventure walking the nearby train tracks. Starting from our front yard, we mounted our gypsy packs and meandered the tracks east of the Brazos River.

Along the train tracked shoulders of the Brazos, there are miles of private fence lines. In Central Texas, ranch owners are the lords and barons of wild spaces. At dusk, our hobo curiosities were satisfied, we left the tracks to setup our tent. I faintly recall someone reading Jack London’s Yukon writings aloud in the tent glowing from the dull flamed candle lantern.

Before dawn, we woke to the blind sounds of a screeching truck and cussing. Lord Baron Mr. Brazos wasn’t impressed with our explorer’s spirit. He wanted to know what they hell possessed us to trespass in his field? P I S S E D.

Turns out we ransacked the home of a 1,000 lb. bull with Texas size horns. Mr. Brazos’s fence was there to protect everyone from his beast. After a lecture he let us go with a promise of never being so stupid again.

Where the Wilderpeople roam

My neighborhood, The Farm, is a dwindling outpost of a wilder Colorado amidst suburbia. In the 1940’s the original cowboy family ran horses and cattle and named the five ponds after each child. There are a lot of fences. Barbed wire fences around grazing cattle and split rail fences neatly framing newly sodded lawns.

Upon our move-in, there were only a handful of new homes occupied. In my estimation, the fences appeared more like story props than protection from the petting zoo “Farm” cows. I didn’t understand why my new neighbors stayed on the people-side of the fence? Beyond the wild side of the fence line, I’ve romped, run, explored, fished, camped overnight and toasted fading sunsets on double dates.

Last week, everything changed. The fence came down. The bulldozer is on a warpath to clear more earth so I can have more neighbors. Now everyone is exploring the wild side. What was once untamed and the un-manicured is becoming civilized.

I’m waiting for the new signs to go up like “No running, no fishing, no camping, and no drinking”.

Some fences are just an overstated suggestion. Some fences are remnant borders enforcing a dormant authority. Sometimes there is a 1,000 lb. bull on the other side of the fence. Other times, there is a wild world waiting to be explored. You won’t know for certain which kind of fence you are staring at until you hop the fence and find out.

How do you determine which fences you ignore?

What fences do you need to hop and risk exploring the wild side?

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