The Ruricolist is now available in print.

Nondefinition #8

Fences. “Good fences make good neighbors” is the famous quotation, and would have made a good motto for a New England confederacy, had they chosen to secede. But the principle has many other extensions, for fences determine neighbors. Barbed wire makes neighbors prickly, tense – even wiry. Wrought iron gives neighbors easily overwrought; cast iron, neighbors who are often overcast or downcast – sometimes even cast out or cast-off; and both, neighbors prone to irony. Stones, of course, are unpredictable: sometimes, they cause stony taciturnity and stone-coldness; sometimes they give you neighbors who rock; but most of the time, stones attract stoners. (Fortunately, concrete attracts them as well; if you must build a stone fence, try to make sure of an abandoned building between you and any population center.) You can never be sure what to expect from a wood fence. Such neighbors (especially if they have not been pressure-treated) are known to split, flake off, come loose, snap, rot out – even catch fire. Vinyl fences are very reliable: they draw neighbors who are low-maintenance, low-interest, and of uniform color. And predictably, people who grow their own fences put down roots. Now, though fence analysis is a young science, is is a very exciting one. If you’d like to help, the new Endower Institute Center for Fensive Studies is ready to accept your donations.