Don’t Fence Me In
Graham R. Cooper
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above Don't fence me in Let me ride through the wide open country that I love Don't fence me in ...
We’d left the wide open country of the Mackenzie Basin behind us and I’d taken over the driving. Going through the Kawarau Gorge, June spotted a small herd of black goats moving across the sheer, boulder strewn far side of the precipice.
Most fortnights, over a stretch of eight years, we’d travel south-west on a Friday afternoon, on our way to sell our felt wares at the Queenstown Arts and Crafts Market.
June made a point of looking out for the goats in the Gorge. Once alerted I’d try and get a glimpse, not easy on such a narrow, winding road with a cliff on one side, and no bungy harness and chord for the plummet.
The original bungy jump – A.J. Hackett’s – off the old Kawarau Gorge bridge, deservedly “must do” wherever there’s a tourist in need of a thrill. Ourselves, a theme park’s rollercoaster ride the extreme limit of such a need.
Bungy chords, for us, ever associated with securing umbrellas, mirrors, shelves of slippers and scarf racks. A wind getting up the signal for whoever was taking a break to scurry back to the stall.
A mighty gust once tumbleweeded the umbrella (scattering a tourist or two in its wake), into Lake Wakatipu’s shoreline shallows. I had to send June to retrieve it. Her feet were bare in her sandals; I had socks on. You don’t want to get your socks wet, eh?
Queenstown Hill’s good for a break if you feel the need to puff and pant and get away from manmade – and customers. Once, halfway up, June’s path was barred by several large black goats. A big ‘troll beware’ billy goat luckily not so gruff that he wouldn’t let June pass.
We’d pass a Queenstown community garden, just off the main highway, on the outskirts of the city, and wonder how they kept the wild goats from jumping over the modest metre high perimeter fence.
There’s nothing modest about the way I went about fencing in our billy goat.
Brought in at six months, he’s now seven months old: the new kid on the block plenty mature enough if he got in amongst the does.
My son Joseph’s partner was astonished that such a small goat could have such big balls. Joseph, brought up on the homestead, reassured her that male farm animals were big in the balls department.
He can bleat “don’t fence me in” when he gets a whiff of a doe in heat, but no way – unless, wanting her in kid, June puts the doe in with him.
Keeping goats where you want them is not easy. Another homesteader in the district persevered for a few years before “going out of goats”. Her fences, fine for sheep and cattle, proved no obstacle to a goat set on being elsewhere.
Her trials and tribulations were in the back of my mind as I set about putting in fences and gates to keep in the billy goat. The books told me that a 1.5 metre high fence would do the trick. So be it.
It’s a “I’ll bounce you right back off me” fence: Seb, Joseph’s hound, lunged at the goats, and the well-tensioned fence bounced him right back – a yelp and a painful snout all he got for his trouble.
It’s high quality sheep netting with its junctions secured by wire knots with gnarly twists, topped by two electrified high tensile wires. The netting comes up to the one metre mark and the two top wires take it the rest of the way.
Those who’ve seen it have been impressed. The gist being that they reckon I’ve done a good job of the fencing. That’s good enough for me.
Chappie, our “happy chappy” billy goat, has little cause to bleat “don’t fence me in”. He’s still got the alluring Dolores for company, and he’s never experienced the freedom of wild goats. (See https://grahamrcooper.com/2021/03/22/billy-goat-gruff/)
Imagine bringing home Queenstown’s ‘billy goat gruff’; he’d have grooved a narrow, dusty track by now – restlessly pacing up and down the fence line. A feral animal bleating out his version of ‘the call of the wild’ like his life depended on it:
Oh, give me land, lots of land under starry skies above Don't fence me in Let me [roam] through the wide open country that I love Don't fence me in ... *
*’Don’t Fence Me In’ is a popular American song written in 1934, with music by Cole Porter and lyrics by Robert Fletcher and Cole Porter. (Source: Wikipedia)
That’s all on modern-day homesteading at Little Owl Gully till next Monday. Thanks for your company. Bye for now.