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September 6, 2013: Antelope Guard Station, Idaho: Good Fences make Good Neighbors

I don’t know if the above is true or not, but I do know that a carefully constructed fence is a thing of beauty. As we drive or ride, quite often Pete or I will say “nice fence,” to which the other will agree.

Pete’s appreciation for a well-built fence most likely comes from having built one. Today we rode a considerable distance to check the fence in question out. It was six miles from where we’re camped, at Bear Summit (7,500 feet). It was a fairly direct ride, up a gravel road that these days is mainly used by ranchers and ATVers.
(There were a few stock trailers by the wayside, and one ATVer passed us all day.)

We went around two cattle gates. We now have a routine. Pete gets off and hands me Signy’s reins, and then opens the gate. I lead Signy and Raudi through it, and he closes the gate before mounting up. We saw plenty of cattle, mostly Angus with a smattering of Herfords. Barbed wire fencing kept them in place, although it also (we noticed) kept a mother cow and her calf apart. Smart mother knew where the fence ended – baby followed on the far side and they were reunited. Word has it that the Forest Service has told ranchers that they need to move their stock to other places by October 1.

We also saw a flock of bluebirds hanging out on wooden fencing. It was a gradual climb. There were at first no clouds in the sky, then a few wisps. A little bit breezy, which was good for the horses who now have winter coats and consequently break into a sweat more easily.

As we hoofed along, Pete talked about living in the area and putting in fencing. I had not heard previously that he hit himself in the head with a post driver and needed to have stitches. The work itself sounded hard and tedious – it was much the same day after day except for the one day in which the crew went and got extra sand for the horseshoe pit.

The fence was up on a ridge – we didn’t go clear to the end of the fence high on a hill, but I estimated that it was a half=mile distance. I must say, what a fence. Thirty years later, and it was as stout as when it first went in. The five barbed wire strands were still taut, and the posts were firmly in place. There were also metal and posts between the main wooden posts, adding additional support.

I thought when I saw it that at the time an exceptional crew put the fence in. Otherwise, it would not be as stout. Of course, my thinking is that Pete (even then) took great care in what he was doing. The fence is also representative of a rites of passage, one in which he went from being a boy to being a man.

Pete said that at the time that he hoped to eventually work for the US Forest Service, but because of then federal budget cuts, this was not meant to be. Instead, he went to college, wrote a dissertation about the rhetoric of the environment, and became a college professor.

On the return trip, we did a detour and checked out Burnt Hollow, where Pete said that he once ran with an antelope. Then we came back to camp. Dogs and horses were tired, the dogs, in fact, crashed in the shade of the truck and trailer.

I’m glad we came here; in fact, I will be sad to leave. The place has a nice feel to it, perhaps because many had a good time here. Sure would like to see the house and grounds of the Antelope Guard house restored.

Next: 171: 0/7&8/13: Antelope and Salmon River, Idaho: Two Days on the Trail