Tom Clyde: Annual Fence-a-Palooza |

Tom Clyde: Annual Fence-a-Palooza

Tom Clyde: Annual Fence-a-Palooza

Tom Clyde

Park Record columnist Tom Clyde.

First off, a correction. Last week, I said the City Council was moving ahead with the parking lot at Quinns Junction. After my deadline, they decided against building it, at least for now. The best place to put parking for the ski resorts is at the ski resorts. But demand has exceeded what can fit there. Paid parking will force more efficient use of the existing parking lots—and spread the parking problems all over town. PCMR’s parking problems are now Fresh Market’s parking problems.

A park and ride lot along the SR224 corridor would be ideal. It’s on the way, and could intercept skier and worker traffic from Salt Lake, which is the bulk of the daily inflow. But there is not a location out there that is politically or economically possible. We’re not going to pave 10 acres of the McPolin farm. Reality pushes it to SR248, which is not without its problems, but it seems possible. The “park” portion of the park-and-ride alternative is already there with the Richardson Flat lot. It’s not a world class parking lot, but it’s there.

What’s been missing for over a decade is the “ride” side of the equation. I don’t see it as the public’s burden to provide parking for the ski resorts. There is a public benefit in reducing traffic, so a shared system makes sense. If the city provides the parking lot, the ski areas ought to be able to run the shuttle buses to make it work. That’s expensive, but is a cost of doing business. There isn’t an ideal solution, but finding a way to make the 750 parking spaces at Richardson Flat usable can’t be that hard.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, we had the annual “Fence-a-palooza” last week. I used to be able to hire a crew of resort employees who were looking for a filler job between the end of ski season and the start of their summer jobs. But that doesn’t seem to work anymore. I’ve ended up shaming the rest of my family, who own more of the ranch than I do, into doing most of the annual fence repair. We had about 16 people on it, and got a lot done in a big day.

If there is a benefit to the lame winter, it’s that the fences made it through more or less unscathed. In a heavy winter, the weight of the snow pushes the wire down, tips over posts, and hides the fences so the elk and moose walk through them instead of jumping over. Some years the fences are a real mess. This year, there were a few trees blown over here and there, the usual assortment of rotted posts (the cedar posts only seem to last 80 years or so), and some broken wires.

I did a Google Earth measure of the fences on the ranch, and was shocked to find about 12 miles. There are the perimeter fences, fences along both sides of the highway, fences along both sides of the river, and then a bunch of internal cross fences to manage grazing. They say a cow can smell water from a mile away. I don’t know about that, but I do know a cow can see a downed fence from outer space. Despite being in belly-deep grass, a cow will push through a weak spot in the fence to go into a field of thistles and sagebrush. If one goes through, the rest will follow. So every inch of it needs to be looked at and patched.

I’ve done that for so long that I can recognize who did what patches. There are a million techniques for tightening the stretch, splicing the wires, and attaching the dancer posts that hold things in place but aren’t set in the ground. We had a great guy who worked for us for 52 years, and I can tell the difference between Myrle’s work and my cousin’s. There are experiments with different gadgets sold to tighten the wire; gadgets that mostly end up breaking the wire when it gets very cold.

I’ll find places where somebody has twisted the tie wires the wrong way—righty tighty, lefty loosey—and assume that is a left-handed nephew’s doing. I remember watching my grandfather set corner posts in boulder-filled ground using profanity instead of a shovel. Sixty years later, they are still vertical and solid. There are lots of examples of “four o’clock” fence—places where whoever built it was at the end of the day and tired out. He didn’t want to spend an hour getting to and from the barn for supplies and decided to make do with what he had. You can also see the emergency repairs where a bull knocked it down, and the repair got made with whatever could be scrounged up on site before the cows got out.

Patching fence is boring and exhausting. But if you pay attention, a mile of barbed wire fence has a story to tell about who did the work, when, and under what circumstances.

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