Delta Dreaming: Fencerows

There was a time when folks in the Delta judged a man’s character by how he maintained his fencerows. This is the strip of uncultivated land on either side of a fence. Since fences come in all shapes and sizes, the appearance of fencerows varies as well. Some are more attractive than others.


When I was young, there were still rail fences zigzagging their way alongside pastures. They are all gone now except in parks and historic sites


Nowadays we use barbed wire for fencing. Unlike the graceful split rails, this wire is a nasty, devilish material that seems to attract sweet gum saplings and other noxious vegetation. It makes the maintenance of fencerows almost impossible, or so it seems.


A friend whose family has owned a bank for several generations in our state tells of an uncle who guided the bank safely through the Great Depression, theirs being one of the few to make it. One time, the uncle invited the nephew, as a child, to accompany him to check on a farmer who had applied for a loan with the bank. As they reached the outer limits of the man’s land, the uncle suddenly stopped the car and turned around.


When the child asked what the matter was, the uncle replied that he had everything he needed to know. “Never lend money to a man who doesn’t keep his fencerows clean,” he said.


Whether or not this rule contributed to the bank’s success is open to question. The story does serve to illustrate a point in any case. We never know how people may be judging us.


Unfortunately for the uncle, a county agent came to the community after “the war” and advised local farmers and ranchers that if they let their fencerows grow up, it would increase the quail population and, therefore, improver hunting.


It’s as good an excuse as any.



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