Drunken Pickets

A Moment of Camaraderie on the Hiking Trail

Rustic fence made of slender, shaggy wood poles
Photo by Cheryl Leutjen

Hiking along the dusty trail to the creek, my sister and I wander through fields of tiny red wildflowers as Old Sol blasts us from above. Sweat pours off me in the Austin humidity, and I trudge toward the tantalizing shade just ahead, while dreaming of wading in chilly, green-blue water. Splish splash.

In my reverie, I fail to notice this rustic, raggedy fence until we’re side-by-side with it. So aged by the elements, it hardly seems capable of accomplishing its ascribed aim of establishing boundaries. The weathered, rough-hewn posts suggest, rather than demand, that local hikers like us keep to this side of the trail. The shaggy rails lean amiably on drunken pickets, like a posse of inebriated cowpokes, the whole collaboration ready to collapse under the weight of a simple breeze. Under the weight of living one more day.

This fence has tales to tell, I’m sure of it. I’d plop down and lean against it—swap stories of younger days of glory and the ravages of aging—if I didn’t think my reclining weight would topple it. Instead, I admire it from a conversational distance, as I imagine the intersections of our life experiences, and lament the charging bulls that have trampled our respective boundaries.

I am feeling rather shaggy and rough-hewn myself these days. Even as I lean amiably on the support of my own pickets, both physical and spiritual, I notice the cracks, the sags and the bags of my aging edifice. I find myself wondering if my own architecture can bear up under the stress of another gale force, of living a another day.

This fence, a kindred spirit, inspires me to give it another go. And hope that I may accomplish it with the grace of this wizened teacher before me. We both have our breaks and our barbs, failings and our flaws, both shoring ourselves up as best we can.

I grab the nearest rail and give it a gentle squeeze in solidarity. Very gentle. And I tiptoe away, dreaming again of the healing waters ahead.

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  © Cheryl Leutjen