This first appeared in 2004 in the Peterpoint Examiner.
We liked the fences in our neighborhood. Each presented its own unique challenge to get over, under around or through. Keep in mind that everything was built tough back in the 50s. You name it – chain-link, wrought iron, stone…all were major impenetrable to most anyone but determined kids.
Any that hovered just above natural ground had the obvious under route. A spot camouflaged by bushes was best. We would scrape an underpass just adequate to slide by, belly up. That precaution allowed you to suck in your stomach at the right time, and free snagged clothing. This we called “doggie-style” and that was honestly all it meant to us…the way a dog gets under a fence.
All chain-link was easily scaled. You had to be careful at the top of those 8 or 12 footers. You pushed off horizontally and landed like a paratrooper. To get hung up at the top could be downright catastrophic and wind up with stitches and no-win explanation to your parents.
The cemetery had tall wrought-iron all around, with a hopelessly-continuous concrete footer. The tapered spikes were spaced about six inches apart, with rusted points nearly a foot above the top rail. We proved that it could be done with a push from below. But those spikes were just too dangerous to be routine. We made a cap using a 2x4 and a couple of planks. It stayed hidden in the bushes on whatever side we were on. Mom worked night shift at the ER and said they brought a drunk in once, who wasn’t so lucky. The police found him impaled, squatting full down on a spike. In those innocent days, that was about the only way to get killed in the city.
Barbed wire cap presented an entirely new level of difficulty. But getting past was always worth it. These were the truly forbidden places. The rail yard was one of our favorites. If the brackets hung over the other side it was easy. You used the chain-link technique and gingerly placed one foot on the bracket top and pushed off. But if it stared you in the face, you would have to cut the wire, which was vandalism. Fortunately, every fence has at least one gate. And this is the Achilles’ heel of barbed wire. There are necessarily gaps at the hinges and the lock. And the wire is vertical there rather than leaning in. With care you could evade all the barbs and have plenty of extra stuff to hang onto.
RAZORWIRE: Fortunately, we did not encounter it then. Maybe it hadn’t been invented yet. Those infinite hook-edged coils of stainless sure have me stumped. I think I would have to cut it, and the flat tempered steel is extraordinarily tough. Even then, I assume it might spring back and slash me in the face. Good thing we grew up before its invention, and on the right side of the fence.
DISCLAIMER: Do NOT try any of the techniques described in this column. Only tough kids of the 50s were able to handle those physical and mental challenges.
© 2012 Thomas Dey - 4/4/12