I had a very pleasant Facebook chat today with Marian, a Madoc resident who (I am abashedly delighted to say) reads this blog. She told me she agrees with me on last night’s post about how worrying it is about the damage that the bush-clearing machines used by municipal crews on local roadsides have caused to the historic split-rail fences alongside those roads. In that back-and-forth, when she and I were comparing notes about how we both understand how split-rail fences just belong in the local landscape (and therefore should be preserved, or at least left alone), she said this: “I suppose one had to grow up when rail fences were more prevalent than today, but I grew up in a little village … and most of our fields were divided with rail fences.”
And so I knew from that that Marian was a soulmate: someone who grew up in rural eastern/central Ontario (as I did, in Queensborough), where “fields were divided with rail fences.” That background leaves an imprint on you. Don’t ask me how I know.
It also reminded me of a quick photo I took a few weekends ago when Raymond and I were at an auction (one of our favourite things to do) near Eldorado (which is near Queensborough, where the Manse is). The auction was carrying merrily on, but what was being sold at that particular moment was not of much interest to me, so I found myself scanning the surrounding landscape. And I was surprised to note that the not-terribly-large field next door was divided in two lengthwise by – a split-rail fence. Which suggested to me that this not-terribly-large farm field had once been two smaller fields, owned by different people and divided by the fences they had at that time, i.e. of the split-rail variety.
And those fields were so small! It is so hard to imagine cultivating much of anything, let alone a livelihood, in that space. But people did. And it is good to remember that they did, and how hard they worked.
And it is lovely that we still have the split-rail fences to remind us of them, and of what they did. Which was to make a place for us.