At first I mostly carried tools. At Grandpa Mosel’s near Orchard and on our farm, I helped fix broken wires, toted the fence stretcher or held staples until Dad needed one to nail over a strand of barbed wire.
We’d spy an occasional coyote, along with rabbits, prairie chickens, pheasants, or quail. My imagination often carried me off, and I envisioned Indians racing after buffalo or pioneers on the Oregon Trail.
I don’t know where Dad’s imagination took him, he didn’t talk much while working with me. I’m sure he and my brothers had lots to discuss when they worked together. He named bird calls, though, and taught me to recognize birds by sight or song.
Once I grew strong and big enough, I’d jump out of the pickup to open gates so he could drive through. Some gates were too tight for me to close. Most of the time I could slip the bottom of the post through the wire, then I’d step between the gate post and the fence post, embrace the stationery post, prop it against my shoulder, and pull the gate post with both hands in order to slip the top wire over the fence post with my fingers.
For some reason Dad never made me aware of his impatience at those times.
Dad built new fences on the Neligh farm by digging the holes with a post-hole digger. Muscles in his arms, back, and thighs bunched and released as he drove the digger down, closed the handles, lifted out the dirt, and mounded the sandy clay near the hole. He repeated the process until the hole was deep enough.
I balanced the posts while he filled the holes back up. I tried to tamp the dirt after he filled in around the posts, but I didn’t have strong enough muscles.
An aspect of fixing the fence that I never understood, and found no answer for, was why Dad rolled up old barbed wire and looped it over a post to continue rusting? Or, worse to me, why toss the wire aside for it to spiral against a corner post, waiting to ensnare a person or creature years later? Why wasn’t it picked up and tossed in a safe place?
Maybe there is no answer, the same as there being a reason for those upside-down cowboy boots that decorate some fence posts.