I’ve built a lot of fence in my lifetime, mostly barbwire, but some chain link, some wood and some of that new fangled poly-fence stuff. But I think the most challenging stretch of fence I ever built was just a quarter of a mile long but had more crooks in it than the Red River.
I had taken on this little project in between some cookings in the summer of 1999. It was hot and dry and of course the ground harder than interstate 40. Now don’t get me wrong, I like a challenge, but more than that I like a job with a paycheck attached at the end. Most of the time I could set all the corners in a day and start stringing wire and driving posts the next day. But this little stretch of fence went down eight draws and turned ever angle known to man. It would have made my high school geometry teacher blush. It took four days just to pack all the wire and corner posts in to start this mediocre little project.
Come to find out this little Government project had been turned down by every other fool whom attempted to build a fence. I had bid this job at the going rate of 350.00/ quarter, which on any other normal stretch would have been a day’s work at best. Well, let’s just say there wasn’t anything normal about this, and I sure didn’t feel normal after the fifth day.
A 105 degree day greeted me everyday after lunch. It was a good thing that I stood by a fire for a living, cause let me tell you folks ,it was getting HOT and the sweat was pouring off of me like it was raining- you know like a cow peeing off of a forty-foot bluff. Thank God the Government was providing materials because I could have fenced the Astrodome twice with the T-posts I drove.
Now we all know the Federal Government works in strange and mysterious ways. So I got to thinking- no one knew of this place and there wasn’t enough grass on it to run a grasshopper much less a cow. So what was I fencing in or fencing out?
When I did finish it was a 7 day job that should have been two at the most. I took my receipts up to the County Soil Conservation Office and told that feller that I finally got through and would sure like to get paid. “Well,” he said “We will have to inspect your work and it will be at least two weeks before the board meets to even consider paying you. It states in the contract that you had two weeks to finish and you finished early. So we will have to take that into consideration on your pay.”
That will be fine sir I replied, and in a sarcastic tone I added, “It took me too long to finish so why should I expect y’all to pay me on a timely manner.” He said he hinted the sarcasm in my tone. But as I walked out I thought maybe they will pay more for finishing earlier!
About a week later I got a letter in the mail that said they would drop by and pick me up and together we would all go and inspect this little stretch of fence. It took a while to get all them dignitaries down there and it turned out to be a half a day waisted. Another good example of our tax dollars at work. But what the heck, I was going to get a check and probably a bonus for finishing early!
They were all proud as a rutting buck with their new fence, and said they would settle up with me within the week after their board meeting. A week later and there it was in the mailbox, a letter I will never forget. I was being penalized for finishing early and they were going to dock my pay by half.
Well folks that was about more than I could take and when I got time I took me a ride to town to investigate this predicament. After sitting in on a board meeting for too long I finally took the half pay and was just glad to get out of there.
I learned a valuable lesson that day: if your working for the Government bid it ten times higher and never finish on time- drag it out at least two weeks longer than it should take. But most importantly if they offer you a bid on a job and you’re the only one bidding, run for your life and sanity.
I look back at that little learning experience and still bite my tongue on occasion. I ate some crow and it still had all the feathers on it. They finally did tell me that they weren’t trying to fence anything in or out they just had a sum of $175.00 left over from a job back in the early 1950’s and just wanted to balance the books.