I had kind of a strange dream the other night:
When I was too young to remember, I was in an accident. It left my hand so mangled that I was forced to wear clamp-like devices to keep my fingers straight. I’d always been told that if I took them off, my fingers would once again grow crooked, and this had worked for most of my childhood life. But one day the curiosity was just too strong. I began to tentatively fumble with the screws, just to see if I could loosen them. Somehow, this weakened the mechanism, and the clamp broke off altogether. I was mortified. Now my hands would grow to be hideous. Hideous and crooked, like those of some horrible monster.
That’s when I woke up. At first I thought that the dream was just indicative of the fact that I was sleeping on my hand, and it was all bent up in the most uncomfortable way. That was an incorrect assumption. I now know that It was a premonition of how crippled my hands would feel after seven hours of swinging a machete against small trees and blackberry bushes, and pulling up old barbed wire.
Yes, yesterday I went to do a work trade with our favorite firearms academy. I’d been emailing them for a while, asking if they did such a thing, and was told that yes, sometimes they did. Well it just so happened that they had some work that we could trade for training, but warned me that it was nasty work, and it wouldn’t be fun.
Of course my internal reaction to this was “Come on, I’ve been in the Marines. I can handle anything.” Yeah, well, that was eight years ago, and I wasn’t some softened city boy when I had to do that stuff. Yesterday was a whole different story.
On one side of the range property line, there was an old fence. I say was, because our job was to get rid of it, along with several hundred pounds of overgrowth that was choking the fence-line. We didn’t have to clear all of it, just enough to a) get to the fence, and b) make it possible for them to get in there with a chainsaw and brush hog to clear out the rest of the brambles.
You gain an machete.
It all seemed easy enough when we started at 9:30. There was some fairly thick brush, but nothing that we couldn’t rip the fence right out of. So really, our chopping was limited to a few low branches, and the smaller trees that could be taken out with the machete. We were having a pretty good time, sweating a lot, but not hating it, when the fence wire started going underground.
Yes, the fence was so old, that several of the posts had fallen, and over time become literally buried with dirt, moss, and tangles of grass. Pulling this up could not have been considered in any way fun. Imagine for a moment that you have an old television set. You know, the ones that weigh seventy to a hundred pounds? Now imagine picking it up. Not so bad. Now imagine picking it up by a wire handle. Not a real handle, just two woven strands of 12 gauge wire. Not pretty. Especially when you look at your hands afterwards.
And why did we have to do this? So that the wire wouldn’t somehow get caught in the blades of the brush hog when it went in to shop things up.
After about an hour of that, things started clearing out a bit. The trees and brush were thinning out, so it was easier to spot the fence, and in some places, the fence had been entirely removed. This let us get back to the simple job of chopping.
The guy comes to visit us just before lunch, to see how we’re doing, and mentions how surprised he is with our progress. I know we were both thinking, “Dat’s cuz we be ass-kickas, and we likes ta git da shiznat dun,” but we didn’t really say that. What we did ask for was some kind of digging tool, in case we needed to uncover any more wire. He left to see what he could find, and came back with something that would certainly work, but not exactly what we had in mind.
You gain an hatchet.
This is good in theory though, because it allows up to both hack and chop at the same time. In reality what this did, is enable us to both become completely exhausted, without being able to trade off. But that’s beside the point.
We started again after lunch; all rested, carbed up, and ready to go. And that’s when the brush started getting thick again, along with the trees. In fact, at some points, the trees have grown in through the wire, so to get the fence out we have to hack through the trees.
This happened exactly once. Suddenly my haze filled brain came to the revelation that we should be using wire cutters to simply cut the wire, and then pull it through the trees. Duh. So I went to ask for some.
You gain an worst wire cutters in the world.
It took about half the time to cut through all four wires as it did to chop through the damn tree. And it hurt more too. However, since we were making progress at a decent rate, we tried to keep our ever-fading cheer about us.
That’s when the blackberry bushes appeared. A dense, daunting tangle of nastiness, put there just to make it difficult for the saps that would one day have to dig out that fence. They’d even intertwined themselves with the trees in such a way that simply chopping the bases and pulling them out wouldn’t work. We had to chop them into 12 – 24 inch pieces in order to clear a path to the posts.
Posts that at this point, for some reason, were spaced approx eight feet apart.
Let me talk about this fence for a moment. Whoever built this fence is hopefully dead. They deserve nothing less. There are a couple things to keep in mind when building a fence. 1) Quality – You want to insure that the fence is around for a long time. 2) Common sense – You don’t plant trees along a fence-line, or rather, right on top of the fence-line, unless you are an idiot. Well, the quality was there. This fence was ancient. The posts were only half there due to wood-rot, termites, moss, wind, rain, and every other hardship that mother nature had thrown at it for the last century. Common sense on the other hand… there weren’t none o’ that around when they was buildin’ this puppy.
I mean come on! If your wire ends, you tie it off at the fence-post. You don’t just bury the end in the ground in a big wad. And who builds a fence with the posts eight feet apart anyway? Not only is it labor and material intensive, but someday someone is going to have to replace that fence (or tear it down) as well, and they are going to hate you. Good job on doing your part to destroy peace on Earth.
Where was I? Oh yes, the blackberry bushes. So at this point, our progress rate dropped from one post every ten minutes, to one post every twenty. But dammit, we fought our way to the end. 5:00 rolled around just about the time we were pulling that last damnable post from the ground. We were told later that we were never expected us to make it that far.
But we showed them.
I did become quite good with the machete too. We’re talking almost Jason Voorhees good. I don’t have his endurance though, that’s for sure. My accuracy drops when I get tired, his just keeps on going strong. I’m not so bad with the hatchet either. And further, I’m more accurate with both of them while using my left hand.
I’m thinking maybe I’ll take up arms and just become a serial killer. Then they’ll have a real excuse to say, “It was the movies that made him do it!” Muttering under their breath, “and that damn fence-maker!”
They’ll call me simply, the left handed killer.