Robert Kirby is out of town on assignment. This is a reprint of an earlier column.
Robert Frost wrote a poem about how good fences make good neighbors. I’m guessing Frost had only good neighbors. You can’t build a fence strong enough for bad ones.
I like all of my neighbors except two. First is Harley directly to the east. He’s a loudmouth with poor hygiene. That’s the downside of fences — they don’t stop noise or smell.
Harley’s an idiot terrier. He yammers hysterically at passing joggers, birds and dust motes. One of these days he’s going to get a little too close to my fence. When he does, a hose clamp and me are going to find out if he can bark through his butt.
Josh is on the other side. He’s 8 but obviously a criminal in training. For self-defense, I shoot hard candy at him with a Wrist Rocket. He probably interprets it as a tribute but I only need one solid hit in the head to put him out of action for good.
My wife says it’s time I finished fencing our yard. She has this notion that it will help me be a better neighbor, or at least not a worse one.
In my neighborhood, I can build any fence I want as long as it’s identical to everyone else’s. No barbed wire, rolled razor or brick with iron spikes and gargoyles. It has to be white vinyl.
If fencing were a religion, white vinyl would be the Mormon or evangelical Christian version. It looks OK and cleans up nice, but it’s boring and doesn’t handle abuse very well.
Also, I live in Herriman. We get a lot of wind. Out here, vinyl fencing is not considered a heavier-than-air substance. Part of our original fence is still orbiting the earth.
I called around for bids. I showed them to my wife. She said they seem a bit high even for quality vinyl. I reminded her that vinyl isn’t just vinyl.
Top-grade vinyl is made from a scientific blend of epoxy, whale bones, crushed diamonds and Republican opinion. The cheap stuff is made from cupcake icing and will melt in the first rainstorm.
Vinyl isn’t the only thing that comes in varying qualities. So do the people who install it. One estimator wanted 75 percent up front with a start time of next year. The business card he left has an area code from, I’m pretty sure, Turkmenistan.
One estimator said that white vinyl didn’t have to be boring. I could accessorize it any way I liked. The only limits were my imagination. He was lying. Cost is another one.
I imagine the perfect residential vinyl fence being 15 feet tall, with two guard towers, rifle loopholes every 4 feet, a drawbridge, a catwalk and a moat. Oh, and it had to be electrified.
The neighbors in the back have an electric vinyl fence for their horses. It’s like a giant bug zapper. I leaned over the fence a couple of years ago and accidentally touched it with an armpit. My vision returned in about 20 minutes but my feet still twitch.
The limit of my imagination turned out to be $319,852.71 and a wife. We’re still going to get a fence, but a substantially reduced and far less effective fence, certainly not a fence that would kill anyone or even a terrier.
A good fence does make for good neighbors. Not just because it keeps them out, but also because it helps keep you in.
Robert Kirby can be reached at email@example.com or facebook.com/stillnotpatbagley.