The Sandman: His Farm Stories by Willliam J. Hopkins
The Rail Fence Story
NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted
white and had green blinds; and
it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide
gate to let the wagons through to
the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a
track that led up past the kitchen
door and past the shed and past the barn and past the
orchard to the wheat-field; and
through the wheat-field
to the maple-sugar woods.
All about were other fields; and one of them was a
great enormous field where Uncle John used
to let the horses and cows go to eat the grass, after
he had got the hay in. This field was so big
that Uncle John thought it would be better if it was
made into two fields. He couldn't put a stone
wall across it, because all the stones in the field had
been made into the wall that went around the
outside. So he thought an easy way would be to put a
rail fence across.
So, one day, when it was winter and snow was on the
ground, Uncle John and Uncle Solomon
took their axes and walked along the little track, past
the barn and past the orchard, and climbed
over the bars into the wheat-field. Then they walked
across the wheat-field and climbed
over the bars into the maple-sugar woods; and they
walked along the road in the woods
until they came to a place where were some trees that
were just the right size to make rails and posts.
They were not maple-sugar trees, but a different kind.
Then they cut down enough of these trees to make all
the rails and all the posts
they wanted; and they cut off all the branches and they
cut some of the trees into
logs that were just long enough
for rails, and they cut the other trees into logs that
were just long enough for posts. Then
they took the rail logs and with their axes they split
each one all along from one end to the
other, until it was in six pieces. Each piece was a
rail. But the post logs they didn't split.
Then they left the logs and the rails lying there and
walked back, and climbed over into the
wheat-field, and went across
the wheat-field and
climbed over at the other side, and walked
past the orchard and past the barn and past the shed
and went in at the kitchen door.
The next morning, Uncle John got out the old oxen, and
they put their heads down low, and
he put the yoke over and the bows under, and hooked the
tongue of the sled to the yoke.
Then he said: "Gee
up there," and they started walking slowly along, past
the barn and past the orchard to the
wheat-field; and Uncle John took down the bars and they
walked across the wheat-field,
and he took down the bars at the other side. Then the
old oxen walked through the gate
and along the road to the place where the post logs and
the rails were; and Uncle Solomon
had come too, and little John. But they didn't let
little John come when they cut the trees
down, because they were afraid he might get hurt.
Then Uncle Solomon and Uncle John piled the rails on
the sled, and the post logs on top,
and the old oxen started and walked along the road and
through into the wheat-field and
across the field, and Uncle John put the bars up after
had gone through the gates.
Then they dragged the sled along past the orchard and
past the barn to the shed. There they
stopped and Uncle John and
Uncle Solomon took off the
logs and the rails. The rails were
piled up under the shed, to dry; but the logs they had
to make square, and holes had to be
bored in them before they would be posts. Then
Uncle John unhooked the tongue of the
sled from the yoke and took off the yoke, and the old
oxen went into the barn.
The next day, Uncle John took an axe that was a queer
shape, and he made the post
logs square. Then he bored the holes in the logs for
the rails to go in, and piled the
posts up under the shed. They were all ready to set
into the ground, but the ground
was frozen hard, and they
couldn't be set until the winter was over and the
ground was soft.
After the winter was over and it was getting warm, the
ground melted out and got soft.
Then Uncle John and Uncle Solomon took a
crowbar—a great, heavy iron bar
with a sharp end—and a shovel, and they went to
the great enormous field. Then
they saw where they wanted the fence to be, and they
dug a lot of holes in the ground,
all in a row, to put the posts in.
Then they went back and Uncle John got out the oxen and
put the yoke over and the bows
under and hooked the tongue of the cart to the yoke. On
the cart they piled the posts, and
there were so many they had to come back for another
load. Then the oxen started and
walked down the little track and out through the wide
gate into the road, and
along the road to the great enormous field where the
holes were all dug for the posts. Then
Uncle Solomon and Uncle John
put the posts in the holes
and pounded the dirt down hard.
Then the oxen walked back along the road to the
farm-house and in at the gate and up to
the shed. And Uncle John put the rails on the cart and
the oxen walked back to the field
again and in beside the row of posts. And Uncle John
took the rails off the cart and put
them in the holes in the posts, so that they went
across from one post to the next. And in
each post were four holes, and four rails went across.
Then the oxen went a little farther and the rails were
put in between the next posts, and so
on until the rails reached all the way across the
field, and the fence was done. And when
Uncle John wanted the cows or the horses to go through,
he could take down the rails at
any part of the fence.
Then the old oxen started walking back out of the field
into the road and along the
road to the farm-house. And they went in at the wide
gate and up the track past the
kitchen door to the shed, and there they stopped.
And Uncle John unhooked the tongue of the cart from the
yoke and put the cart in the
shed. And he took off the yoke and the old oxen went
into the barn and went to sleep.
And that's all.