The Wire


The wire wasn’t long enough. It didn’t matter how much we pulled, pushed, twisted or grunted. It wasn’t long enough and it wasn’t going to be long enough. I was becoming irritated at the three strands of galvanized metal tightly wrapped around one another. The barbed-wire fencing they formed had bloodied my arms and sullied my spirit.

  “Let’s go get us a Dr. Pepper and think about this,” Mr. Crull said, knowing that sometimes the best thing to do is nothing.

  “What about this?” I asked pointing at the gap in the fence.

  “It’ll be there when we get back. And, the thing a lot of people don’t realize about cows is if they want out of a field, they’ll get out. These fences just make ‘em think of a way to do it.”

  Sweat was stinging the cuts on my arms. They didn’t hurt as bad as my pride, though. Being beaten, physically and intellectually, by something that couldn’t move if I didn’t make it, will take its toll on a man smart enough to know the fact.

  We got in Mr. Crull’s Subaru sedan and headed to New Ark. It was a car that had been used more like a truck than most trucks. It’d hauled more things it shouldn’t have been asked to than it had people. It had never failed him and he respected it tremendously for that.

  As we neared the edge of New Ark, which was little more than two roads meeting and a two-aisled country store watching them, Mr. Crull slowed and looked  across a pasture. He was deep enough in thought about something across the field that he paid little attention to the fact that he’d driven off the side of the road. The LEFT side of the road.

  “That’s it!” he said as he righted the car and sped up. I looked across the field and couldn’t figure out what ‘that’ was or what the ‘it’ that it was was.

Dust from the gravel parking lot billowed into the car as I opened the door. Willie Thompson sat in a rocking chair on the front porch of the store. He coughed and waved his hand in front of his face.

  “What’s your hurry, Peb?” he yelled, calling Mr. Crull by the name most farmers knew him by.

  “I just had a great idea and I don’t want to forget it before I use it” Mr. Crull replied.

  Willie laughed as he took a handkerchief from his pocket and wiped his nose. Mr. Crull opened the wooden-framed screen door and it slammed shut behind him.

“You guys getting’ that old fence fixed?” Willie asked me.

  “Tryin’ to. Strands aren’t long enough to get where we’re going with ‘em, though.”

“By the looks of your arms, I’d say they’re plenty long enough. That or you’re standin’ too close to ‘em” he said. I didn’t know if he was serious, or not.

  “Yeah, I guess.”

  Mr. Crull came out with the same ‘bang’ he’d gone in with. He had two bottles of “10-2-4” Dr. Pepper with him and a determination in his walk. “You ready?” he asked as he opened his door.

  He was already in ‘reverse’ by the time I’d shut my door. He handed me a bottle of pop from between his legs and we started backing away from the store. Willie waved as Mr. Crull let out on the clutch and we headed back to the farm. 

The Subaru made its way onto a dirt road between two fields before we were all the way back to the fence project, though. There was a corncrib at the end of the road and we pulled up next to it. This is the same corncrib where I kissed a girl for the first time. That had been a long time before. And, I still thought about it every time I saw the crib.

  Mr. Crull pulled a sledgehammer from the trunk of the car and headed to the crib. With a mighty growl and powerful swing of the hammer, he knocked a wooden ladder off the side of the crib. It broke into two pieces as it crashed to the ground.

  “Perfect,” he said picking up the shorter of the two sections.

  “But, what if you need to climb into the crib?” I asked

  “I’ll deal with that then,” he said as he laid the ladder on top of the car. He held it there with one hand as he steered and shifted with the other. It rattled and slid around as we drove down the gravel county road.

  I could see the shadow of the ladder on the hood of the old Subaru. Once in a while, after hitting a pothole, it’d bounce down into view.  I wondered what he had in mind for the busted ladder. He seemed to have it all under control.

  As we pulled up to the open fence, some of the younger, more curious calves were milling around, studying their potential path to freedom. I think they realized they had no place to go or they would have already been gone. 

  “That’s the time,” Mr. Crull said to them as he opened his door. “Stay in there, now”

  He took a shovel and dug down a bit next to the creosote corner-post, on the side we’d been trying to attach the fence to. He stuck the broken end of the ladder into the hole, with one of the sidepieces flush with the post, the rungs pointing to the ends of the barbed-wire fence. He took his sledgehammer and tapped the tops of the sidepieces of the ladder until they were close to level and nearly even with the top of the corner-post.

  He drove a handful of spikes through the sidepiece and into the corner-post. “That oughta do,” he said, tugging on the ladder to see if it was secure enough. It was only now that I realized that he was going to use the ladder as an extension of the post.

  One by one I brought him the strands of fencing, starting with the bottom. He wrapped the wire around the ladder’s sidepiece opposite the post, pulling it taut and tying it around itself. Using channel-locks he twisted the wire like a big bread-tie.

  Within a few minutes we had the four-wire fence up and good enough to serve its function. Plus, there was a new way to get across the fence without tearing your pants.

  “Next time,” he said, pausing to look at me, “next time, don’t run off the road where I got barbed-wire.”


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Felix J. McGillicuddy