A legacy of preservation

Community invited to sharpen its fencing skills

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— People who talk the talk of preserving the Yampa Valley's agricultural traditions now have a chance to walk the walk.

The Community Agriculture Alliance will host the first "Community Fence Day" from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. Participants will be taught how to mend barbed-wire fence damaged over the winter by heavy snow.

"I call it an art form," longtime rancher Vernon Summer said. "Most people think it's drudgery. The important thing is to have the right tools."

Summer also cautions against trying to fix fences with the same 70-year-old barbed wire that's been hanging off the fence posts since the ranch was homesteaded.

Ellen Stein of the Agriculture Alliance said people who turn out for the Community Fence Day at the Legacy Ranch four miles south of Steamboat on U.S. 40 will be treated to cowboy coffee at 8 a.m. followed by a serious training session from New Zealand sheep man and expert fence builder Ed Mumm.

"He's a very animated Kiwi," Stein promised. "He'll demonstrate how to put up a short section of fence and how to mend fence."

Once properly trained, volunteers will be ferried to several nearby ranches for a session of fence mending.

The Ag Alliance will even provide the gloves. Volunteers just need to wear protective clothing.

Summer says the most important tool for fence mending is the Golden Rod wire stretcher.

"I've got two of 'em," Summer said. "And I've worn out two or three." Other necessary tools are a well-balanced hammer Summer still prefers wooden handles and sturdy pliers with strong wire cutters.

"My Dad got me started," Summer said. "As time went along I picked up things like getting the right angle on a staple."

Summer maintains that the more acute the angle at which a fence staple is pounded into the post, the more likely it is to stay

in place.

People interested in learning the artful drudgery of fence mending are encouraged to put together a crew of co-workers, friends or family members.

Hard working crews will be rewarded with a barbecue of Yampa Valley Beef served by local 4-H members at 2 p.m., and they'll have earned the right to say they are ranch hands.

Green hands can learn more by calling the alliance at 879-4370.

Summer said his fence-mending chores are mostly completed for the spring. And even he acknowledges that mending a fence on a brushy hillside isn't much fun.

But give him a flat pasture with a scraggly barbed-wired fence, and he's a happy rancher.

"Fencing in the open is a dream," Summer said.

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