Walking the Split Rail Fence

April 18, 2021

It would keep us occupied for hours, walking that old split rail fence at my grandparents’ house.

The fence was the boundary between their house and the park. It was also a balance beam for me and my cousin.

It seemed so giant and high off the ground. Getting on, upright, and balanced was the most challenging part. How hard it usually is to begin.

When navigating the gate, we had to be very careful. It swung a little even when latched. It liked to wobble and make us off balance. In our younger years, we would hop off and then hop back on, not brave enough to give it a gander. It wasn’t until we were much older that we could get from one side of the gate to the other without a fall.

The gate was good training; the older I get, the better I am navigating gates or their gatekeepers.

On days after a rain, we had to be extra careful. The wood was slippery, especially the spots that had a little green moss growing. I will never forget one tumble that I took off that old fence. Ouch! Let’s say I have a healthy respect for any green coloration on wood now.

Back and forth, back and forth. Don’t fall off, or you will have to start over. Lose your balance, fall, get back on. Repeat.

Remind me again, how we pass each other without one of us stepping on the ground? Hang onto each other, for dear life, that’s how. We prayed for the best outcome as we gripped each other and knew if one went, the other was sure to follow and hit the ground as well. But at least we were falling together!

I remember holding the trunk of a sapling for stability on occasion. I always hoped that my cousin didn’t look back and see me. I wanted to appear confident. She knew the truth, though.

Back and forth, back and forth. Rainy days, sunny days. Cold days, very, very hot days.

Hour upon hour, it kept us busy. How simple the game was. I don’t know that anything else was going through my mind except sheer concentration.

As the years went on, trees and bushes on the other side of the fence tried to grow up and stop our progress of getting to the other end. We had to do some trimming.

The balancing became less challenging every year, and the falls seemed fewer, but the stakes seemed a bit higher.

I became aware that I was walking the fence more and more by myself, as my cousin never seemed to be around anymore. Always busy with sports or something else. I think that they called it growing up. She was doing her balancing act without me, juggling school work, social engagements, and other extracurricular activities.

I wonder what the date was of my last practice round? When was my final walk across the old split rail fence?

Maybe all those years of navigating the balance on the fence helped to prepare me for life as I got older? It taught me the importance of concentrating on a task at hand carefully. If you lose your focus and concentration, you will lose your balance. It was a practice session for all of the balancing that I had ahead of me.

Funny how those days on the split rail fence mirror my life today. Sometimes I find a slippery patch and have all I can do to find my balance and stay on the fence. And some days, I need to hold onto someone else to get by and get to where I am going.

Sometimes, I just plain fall off. I have to brace myself for the impact, wipe myself off, and get back on.

That dear old fence taught me that not even a slippery patch can keep me from getting to the end.

With love,