It’s impossible to even contemplate recalling the number of gates I’ve opened and closed, the fences I’ve climbed over, through or under on fishing trips.
The gates are more often than not along dusty farm tracks or when a well-worn path across the veld leads to a fence line. It’s not so much the gates that are an issue, although they all have characters of their own, some swing easily, others with hinges worn from years of use, drag across the ground and have to be lifted to open, but it’s the catches that hold them closed that never fail to intrigue me. Here’s the thing, I have never found two alike, they are like those twisted wire puzzles that take you a few frustrating hours to fathom how they unlock. And, then for good measure there are sometimes more than one catch on each gate – some work, others don’t and those that don’t, are left there just to confuse the issue. It is one of those things that you just don’t get better at over time, even after passing through the same gate often on the way to your favorite fishing hole.
Then just when you thought it couldn’t get worse you come across one of those gates that are made of barbed wire fixed to a pole at each side with the one pole hinged to the fence post with two wire hoops. On the opening side there is a hoop at the bottom of the fence post into which the bottom of the gate post slides and at the top there is the same which secures the gate with tension by pushing the top of the gate post towards the fence post and slipping the wire hoop over the top. Simple and effective mechanism, but that’s where it ends. They somehow are never difficult to open, but closing is another story and usually involves some help to add weight and strength just to get the top of the gate post into position where the wire hoop can be forcefully squeezed over. Sometimes I wonder if the farmer doesn’t arrange these contraptions on purpose?
Gates notwithstanding the mind boggling catches and Heath Robinson locking devices, pale into insignificance in comparison to the potentially ‘life threatening’ barbed wire fences.
It is these that you are likely to encounter more than gates. Seldom when you reach a fence line after crossing open veld or scrambling through bush, will there be a gate in sight. Now you have three options, over, through or under. The latter two are the safest if the strand tension allows, but even if it does and your buddy manages to hold it open wide enough with a foot on the bottom strand and pulling up on the upper, you will seldom make it through without snagging some part of your body or clothing. I have ripped pants and shirts as well as having a few scars to prove it. If you are on your own, it can be a lot worse – once snagged any further movement usually worsens the situation with barbs hooked in places you can’t, or are difficult to see, sometimes close to sensitive parts of the anatomy that can cause mild panic at the mere thought of being impaled. In short you can get stuck unless you grit your teeth, take it like a man and force your way through.
If not, you could end up like the remains of the Fiscal Shrike’s (aka Butcher Bird) larder of food. They have found barbed wire fences are the ideal places for storage and a snack later!
But, it is when there are no gates in sight and you find yourself having to climb over the fence that the real challenge happens and the risk of serious injury increases exponentially. The safest route is to find the strongest pole in the vicinity and use it for stability, if there is ever such a thing with farm fences! The first move is the easiest setting your foot on the second strand firmly up against the pole, it’s when you swing your other leg over the top strand and then perform a kind of 180 degree pirouette to secure a foot-hold on the opposite slide of the fence that things can go horribly wrong. If you make it, you end up in a kind of pigeon toed position that most ballerinas would be proud of. The scary part is that your crown jewels are now just a few centimeters above the top strand with barbs that suddenly seem to have doubled in length inviting a slip and, I have had it happen, fortunately in my case without serious injury, unlike others I know. The problem is that rusty barbs never leave a nice clean cut – it is rather always a deep tear of sorts. If its not involuntary bloodletting that gets you, infection is likely to!
If I can give any advice, get your rods out of the way, slow down and keep your body and rods intact – remember that the fish aren’t going anywhere!
Please note that all written and photographic material contained in this blog and its posts are the sole ownership of the author/photographer and may not be copied or used for any purpose whatsoever without the prior consent of the author/photographer having been obtained – Peter Brigg.