Monday, February 05, 2007

it's alive! (or: you might not be a redneck if)

Taking a year off to enjoy the comforts of suburban life in the Bay Area has apparently put a bit of a dent in my country cred. Allow me to explain.

A couple of dear friends were kind enough to keep our horses for us while we took our CA sabbatical, and earlier this week I bought some fence-mending equipment in anticipation of the last two "boys" returning home. We use a heavy-duty electric tape fencing system called Horseguard, with which I've been quite happy for the past few years (yes, even while we were away, because the tape doesn't seem to have degraded at all, despite being subjected to the wild weather of Northern AZ). The task was to get it "hot" again (i.e. to get a current running all the way through the perimeter of the pasture) so that it would serve as an effective fence - otherwise the geldings just stick their pointy little heads/fuzzy little bodies under/over the tape to get to whatever intrigues them on the other side.

On Saturday I replaced all the worn out/broken insulators, and yesterday I worked on splicing the tape in a few places where it was weak, or where I'd done a rush job splicing it over a year ago. It felt good to be out in the pasture, despite the waist-high tumbleweeds and the mud created by all the snow melt-off. I had to be a little careful of the gash I'd put in my hand earlier in the week when trying to cram a trash bag (into which I'd apparently thrown broken glass of some sort) into an overly full trash receptacle without wearing work gloves. But other than that, everything was copacetic. I did have to re-do a corner insulator after I got it screwed into the wood post and then realized that I'd forgotten to insert two necessary bolts beforehand, and I did have to go back and undo a few twists in the tape that somehow snuck in there, but no pain, no gain, right?

Finally, like Dr. Frankenstein, I was ready to test my creation. I'd bought a fancy-schmancy tester at the fencing supply store, but unfortunately its use requires sticking a metal probe into the ground, which was still too frozen to allow any kind of probing. No problem: Over a decade ago my husband showed me how to test an electric fence the Redneck Way (and, no, it does not involve bodily fluid - that's the Idiot Way). So, unable to locate a good-sized piece of wire, I unwound a big paperclip, wrapped it around a little pine stick I found in the snow, and touched both points to the fence.

ZAP! Stick goes flying, Nicole's arm shoots up in the air, and someone says "YIPE!"

Apparently, if you use a damp stick when testing an electric fence the Redneck Way, you're going to know beyond the shadow of a doubt whether or not you've got a successful current.

Well, that was all fine and dandy for THAT section of fence, but how was I going to know if the section farthest from our house, the problematic side where the horses tend to escape with the most frequency, was hot?

Hmmmm. Let's see. If you have some kind of insulating material...Plastic! I have plastic kitchen tools! A few minutes later I emerged from the house with my big slotted pasta spoon, into the grooves of which I had crammed my little damp stick with the paperclip wound around the end of it. There was no way that sucker was going to zap me now. I made my way over to the far fence line and carefully raised the pasta spoon until the paperclip points were touching the tape.


Nicole: Dang, what's wrong with this thing? It's supposed to give a little snap to let me know it's hot. Shoot, this side must not be getting current. Here, let me just grab the stick with my bare hand and try it this way just to be su-

ZAP! "YOW! ($%#@*!#)" Stick goes flying; arm shoots up; neighbors (who are out doing their own yard work) no doubt chuckle.

Well, even though I have very little feeling on the right side of my body at this point, at least the pasture is ready to house our horses again. A few hours later, my husband and brother-in-law pull up with two fuzzy geldings in the trailer. All is well, the equines are reunited, and the three of them get to work reacquainting themselves with their old digs. Oops, I forgot to fill a water trough for them.

Imagine, if you will, a beautiful February afternoon on a pine covered, alpine prairie. A handsome, rugged man stands by a pasture fence gazing upon three serene horses. A warm breeze blows across the melting snow, carrying with it the promise of an early spring. And what's this? Here comes his wife, a country girl once again, a little longer in the tooth than she was back in the day, but still a sight to behold with the metal-handled water bucket she has carried from the round pen, filled to the brim. See how she conserves? She how she works with Mother Nature, not willing to let a single precious drop be wasted? She how she lifts the bucket high and pours the water into the waiting trough on the other side of the fence? See how the water arcs, like liquid crystal, through the air. Hear how the husband wonders aloud, "What are you - " as the water splashes across the electric fence.

ZAP! "HOLY mother of -" Arm goes flying. Bucket goes flying. Husband turns politely away so that he will not be seen trying (unsuccessfully) to contain his laughter.

Husband: "You know, there's a reason for that saying about peeing on an electric fence."

So yeah, that's me: Officially certified practitioner of the Idiot Way. But, hey, the lack of sensation in both arms is worth it, if for no other reason than this:


  1. It is a good thing that the friend had already left... she, too, would have had to turn to hide her laughter! I am so sorry that you had such a time with the hot wire - but, just the same, thank you for the chuckle to my morning! :-) GREAT story and storytelling. Hey, BTW, I have a wire that needs testing!

  2. ROFLMAO!! GIRL - You have GOT to invite me over for this kinda stuff..They don't MAKE entertainment that good! Glad to see you aren't "one horsed" any longer!

  3. Lorelei11:05 AM

    You are a knucklehead.

    I'm sure there's an Electric Fence Testing Stick that's hand-milled from a winery in Sonoma that I could purchase from the SF Ferry Building's farmer's market for you. It'd only cost maybe $89.99 for the exquisitely packaged willow twig, but at least you'd have your EYEBROWS still attached!

  4. Ha ha! Don't feel bad; I've been dealing with electric fence my whole life and I still don't get how it works!

    Love those muzzles!

  5. Maybe you're a little short on your ketchup ration. Just another possibility to add to the DDx (differential diagnosis).