Apropos of Nothing: On the Fence About a Fence by Jamie Beckett

Apropos of Nothing: On the Fence About a Fence
An Editorial by Jamie Beckett

There is an old saying that suggests good fences make good neighbors. That may be true, too. But based on my most recent experience a good fence will put me in the poor house.

Who knew?

We’ve got five dogs at the house. They’re called John, Paul, George, Ringo, and Murray. They’re real members of the family, and just like the human members of the family, they individually specialize in some kind of pseudo-important work. Most of those tasks involve group activities with errant squirrels, snakes, the occasional stray cat, and smelling really bad after getting caught in the rain. Collectively however, they do a bang-up job at keeping interlopers away.

Maybe it’s because there are five of them, but if the mail carrier is foolish enough to leave the safety of their truck to brave a stroll across the lawn, let’s just say they benefit from one heck of a high intensity cardiovascular workout trying to beat the gang back to the truck.

This presents a problem, however. It’s that good neighbor thing. I’d like to be one. So, I got to work dialing the phone in an attempt to find someone who would save me the trouble of designing and building a fence. I was hoping they would take that chore off my to-do list in exchange for a small pile of dollar bills. It turns out, there are a multitude of folks who will happily build you a fence – but none of them will do it for less than the cost of a good, low-mileage used car.


The extraordinarily high cost of fencing may be, at least in part, due to the exceptionally broad selection of building materials. There was a time when building a fence was no more difficult than striking a deal with our not-yet 16th president, Abraham Lincoln. You could trade a couple chickens and a chaw of tobacco for a wagon full of split rails back then. One BBQ later you’d have a classic fence surrounding your property and all would be well with the world.

Today things are different. First of all, Abe’s a national treasure in our time. It would be disrespectful to suggest he should dirty his hands building a fence to contain five high spirited dogs. Besides that, today’s purchaser of desirable fencing products has to consider not just split rail, but also vinyl, aluminum, wrought iron, chain link, bamboo (the environmentally responsible choice), PVC, and of course, electrified.

That’s to say nothing of barbed wire, invisible fencing (yes, there really is such a thing), or laser beams.

The first quote I got gave me heart palpitations. The second left me laying on the lawn gasping for breath. The third and fourth fencing companies never even showed up to bid the work. Apparently, word got around about my overly sensitive nature.

I was nearly out of ideas and available credit when an entirely new idea popped into my head. Salvation through inexpensive fencing was at hand.

There is a pallet company just down the road from my house. It occurred to me they must have factory seconds. Slightly damaged pallets that can’t be sold as new, since they’re not up to the usual standards of the product. And pallets can be stood on end, side to side, and tied together to make a fence.


Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to run my plan by anyone at the pallet company because they close up for the night before I get off work. But it turns out the chain they close their gate with has a lot of slack in it. I was able to get in just after dark, locate the slightly irregular pallets, load them onto my truck, and bring them home.

I felt good about that. I didn’t even have to take up the time of their employees, saving the pallet company time and a trip to the landfill where I guess they normally dispose of these things.

The long and the short of it is, I have a new fence. It was affordable, easy to install, and it keeps the dogs in the yard pretty darned well. It looks a little weird, but I doubt my neighbors care about that. None of them have been by to complain anyway. And since Murray came back from quarantine completely free of rabies, there’s really nothing to complain about as I see it.