2013-03-07 / Columns

News & Reviews

By Edward F. Keller, D.D.S.
1732 Golf Drive Bismarck, ND 58503


When I was a little boy on my Strasburg, N.D. farm, in the 1920s and 1930s, miles of fences encompassed my prairie empire, an empire built to last, to be handed down to children, grandchildren to grow upon and farm in their turn. Fences in such perfect lines they might have been drawn on the land with a ruler and pencil, divided my veldt. They trailed mile-square of section lines as they dipped into valleys and ascended hills into the horizon.

Fences were often shared between two neighbors… but many times each neighbor built his own fence four feet apart… as was the case with mine and Kelsches and Hagels. Internal fences kept cattle from planted fields, hogs from gardens and milk cows in milk fences.

Fences tamed the land long before school houses and churches. Each farm had 5-7 miles of fences, 500 posts per mile, with two or three double stranded barbed wire,drawn violin string tight with block and pulley. Corners and gates demanded extra skill and ingenuity. Fences were more tedious to build than houses and barns.

Fence posts harvested from Beaver Creek, rickety crooked and thin, needed frequent replacement. Missouri River bottom posts, wedged and split from larger trees, were more durable and metal posts the most expensive. Fences made statements about their builders and farmers took pride in their work.

In addition to declaring a domain and containing livestock, some fences carried talk-a-phone wire, stretched on the posts to connect milea part farms. Phone boxes on kitchen walls with their dring, dring, dring… one and a half for Hagels, two for Kleins, two and a half for Krafts and three for Schwabs, broke prairie loneliness as did the train whistles going through Strasburg and Linton. No privacy prevailed, but any conversation was reviving.

Till next time.

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