The Farmer’s Wife – Four Wheeled Fence Art
Running out the electric fence in the lucerne was a daily task and I had helped George with it many times. Each day, twice a day we would measure off a new section of long feed and move the electric fence so the cows could graze it after the milking. It always freaked me out a little bit because the lucerne could be as tall as my hips (I know I am only short but that is still tall), and snakes were very common in summer. When I was with George, it was fairly easy. All I had to do was follow along and carry the temporary fence ‘droppers’ (posts).
When George asked me to run out the fence on my own, it took a fair bit of encouragement but I agreed in the end. He was busy milking the cows and he reasoned that the earlier we finished, the earlier we could go do the fun stuff.
So, I jumped on the four wheeled motorbike (no more two wheels for me if you recall). I always loved the Quad Runner (named because it was the model of the very first four wheeler we had); I could go fast, slide around the corners, lift the wheels off the ground on one side but always stay upright. I took off down the track which was lined by Cyclone fencing wiring on both side. The paddocks were dry now; the sun was hot and the lucerne was a dark, lush green from all the water we poured on it daily.
We had a lazy little trick we often used to get the bike through the gateways. Today was no exception. I stopped and opened the gate, gently pushed the accelerator on the bike without jumping back on, sending the bike unaccompanied through the gateway, then I closed the gate and jumped back on, zooming off across the tall lucerne.
The bike was loaded up with a reel of wire and posts which clattered on the carry rack at the back. I stopped at the new section of feed paced out the new section, running the wire out as I went. I then stomped the fibreglass fence droppers into the ground at even spacings and went back to the bike. While I studied the wire, to make sure it was straight and all in place, I took in a deep breath. I could smell the lucerne and almost taste it as the aroma was so pungent. The purple flowers were dotted along the surface and the tall stems swayed in the summer breeze. Such a shame the summer wind wasn’t strong enough to stop the flies from hanging on my back and trying to crawl up my nose.
I swatted the flies, jumped back on the motorbike and ‘fanged it’ across the cow cropped grass to the gateway. I repeated the earlier process of jumping off the bike, opening the gate and flicking the accelerator on the motorbike. It was an automatic bike and usually a quick squeeze would send it the three or four metres needed to get it through the gateway so I could close the gate. I had turned the steering slightly so the bike would curve from the gateway to the lane-way but I was horrified when the bike didn’t stop! The bike had a gremlin, the accelerator was stuck and I watched helplessly as the my transportation careered off down the lane like it was possessed.
I chased after it like something from a Benny Hill or Carry On Comedy. I am so glad mobile phones were not around then. I would have been an overnight You Tube sensation for all the wrong reasons. I can’t say if I was relieved or mortified when the little orange Quad Runner veered into the fence on the side of the lane-way. It didn’t want to stop there, it continued to accelerate with its knobbly tyres literally climbing up the squares in the Cyclone fence. It didn’t stop until I caught up to it, red faced and panting to turn the key and stop the motor. I was dumb struck, with emotions switching between between humour and horror. I was both angry and upset and the result could only be described as a temper tantrum.
I kicked the bike, then I tried to untangle it from the wire, then I kicked it some more. I stood back examining my mess. The bike reminded me of an abstract sculpture made form junk yard bike parts. The plastic mud guard was torn down the middle by a piece of wire. The wheel was jammed over the top of the fence, hanging there like a stranded mountain climber.
I was stubborn, well I still am I guess. I kept trying to free the bike, but nothing worked. It was time to walk my little butt all the way back to the dairy and tell George I had wrapped his dad’s motorbike through his dad’s fence. I was trying to think of how to explain it but I didn’t need to. George had seen it all from the dairy. He must have been keeping an eye out because it was my first time doing the fence on my own. Of course he was very understanding; between fits of laughter. Come to think of it, he was often pretty calm and understanding when I stuffed up; always finding the funny side of the story or calming me down after my melt down moments. I felt terribly guilty until he told me the story about the time he ripped the door off his dad’s brand new ute; that helped.