Prison Break

Painting a chain link fence - HomeOwnersHub

I stare out the sunroom window at the ugly chain link fence overgrown with ivy and unruly weeds.  The aged wire webbing runs along the entire outer perimeter of my neighbor’s yard. It serves one purpose: Every dog who walks by the fence sniffs and pees on the rusting metal, a calling card to the canine world.

The austere yards of the post WWII era, when working class families thought it practical and affordable to erect chain link fences, are mostly gone, replaced by landscaped lawns, inviting stone walkways, manicured beds and ornamental trees. All except this one aging chain link fence located across the street from our house.

I hate chain link fences for more than just their unsightly design. When I was a young girl growing up in the Midwest, chain link fences were everywhere. They were used as cages to keep kids in and barriers to keep kids out. Chain link fences limited the access to my friends’ yards, parking lots, our school’s playground, parks, cut-throughs, and fields. Out of necessity and juvenile rebellion, one of the first milestones to master as a kid was to learn how to scale a chain link fence without the assistance of an older sibling or friend. 

Learning to climb a chain link fence was an art form.  Our toes had to find the right honeycomb notches to anchor our feet as we climbed up the chain link netting. Cautiously we wove our hands underneath the spiked wires (purposely cut at an angle to inflict injury) to grab the round metal rail. If you were a master-level fence climber, you hoisted both legs over the top in one full side-swing followed by a 180-degree twist at the waist, landing a perfectly executed dismount, much like a gymnast’s move over the pommel horse.

I was too afraid that I’d catch my pant leg or shoelace on the top prongs and feared cutting my hand on the sharp wires. So I kept to the straddle method, extending my arms straight so as to generate a comfortable clearance for crossover. Then used the diamond shaped toe holds to lower myself down the otherside until it was safe to jump. 

My children didn’t have to master the art of hopping chain link fences. They grew up in a neighborhood free of metal barriers. They cut through yards, visited their school playground, and explored nearby parks freely. My wish is for more children to experience fewer barriers and more freedom to explore. Chain link fence removal is a good place to start.

 (Sorry, Fido.)

4 thoughts on “Prison Break

  1. I really enjoy your vivid descriptions – ‘the honeycomb notches to anchor our feet’. I will practice being more precise in my own writing. Thank you!

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  2. What a great image to focus the slice right at the beginning — the canine calling card. I didn’t have chain link fences where I grew up, but your post got me thinking about those childhood rites of passage. I too am glad some of them were not present for my kids!

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  3. You had me thinking about the chain-link fence of my own childhood. Although an eyesore, I am glad the fence across the street from you inspired this slice because you raise such valid points. I especially admired this description/simile, “If you were a master-level fence climber, you hoisted both legs over the top in one full side-swing followed by a 180-degree twist at the waist, landing a perfectly executed dismount, much like a gymnast’s move over the pommel horse.”

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  4. As I ended this slice, I thought, sure it is a brilliantly detailed reflection of a childhood small moment. But them your ending paragraph jumps to your own kids and seems to be about so much more.
    The line that sticks with me is:
    My wish is for more children to experience fewer barriers and more freedom to explore.
    Sudden;y the chain linked fence becomes a metaphor for me for so much more.
    Thanks for sharing. Know that this slice is sticking with me and has me thinking.

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