C.W. Gusewell

THE KANSAS CITY STAR

There's no need to mend fences

“Good fences make good neighbors” – Robert Frost in “Mending Wall”

What standing does a provincial journalist have to quarrel with the most beloved of American poets?

No standing, I freely confess. And yet as a scribbler who writes from his own experience and is paid by the word, I have to take issue with that business about good fences.

Observation is the most dependable teacher. And what I have learned during this recent spell of nasty weather is that, in fact, it’s bad fences that make good neighbors.

We haven’t any issues with the neighbors on either side.

To the west there’s no fence at all. That neighbor, Paul, has a springer spaniel named Sailor, and a friendlier creature you couldn’t hope to know.

Anytime we’re in our front yard and he’s at large in his, Sailor pops over for a visit.

He has a fine, moist nose.

On our east side live Tyler and Ann and their two wonderful youngsters.

Their backyard and ours are both enclosed. Between us there’s a 6- or 7-foot wooden fence.

Our side is the province of the aged beagle, Buddy, who was adopted from a shelter at age 9 or so. Mostly he’s an indoor dog, going out only for the necessary errands or for an occasional walk on a leash.

For company he has cats – good cats and friendly. But I’ve often thought he must miss companionship of his own kind.

In the neighboring yard lives Bode, a handsome golden retriever, also a rescue, named after Bode Miller, the U.S. Olympic skier.

It’s likely they both knew there was a relative, however distant, on the other side. But it wasn’t until a section of the fence went down – felled by an Arctic blast, or possibly just by age – that they actually met.

And, for us, it was a joy to witness the excitement of their first time ever together.

The snow that day was at its deepest – shoulder high to Bode, nearly over little Buddy’s back. And they romped in it with a joy that took me back in memory to the snow days of boyhood.

I don’t know when, if ever, that fence will go back up. There’s no immediate plan.

So never mind what the poet wrote. It’s quite clear: Bad fences can make good neighbors .