A gate to a ranch or a farm is hard-working, sees everything, knows all, and says nothin’. That’s what I believe, anyway.
A buddy of mine, Burleigh Crank, said he’s thinking about buying a vacant place about two miles east of town. He asked me if I’d take a look at it before he closed the deal. He and his wife, Sylvie, plan to live in the old homestead and graze cattle on the land. He’ll let his oldest son’s family take over the home that he and Sylvie live in now.
I agreed to check it out.
At first glance, the house had a shortage of window panes, but that’s an easy fix. I looked through a large barn and two outbuildings. They seemed in better repair than the residence, which is a significant clue to pride of ownership and a tribute to common sense. A prior owner had taken pains to construct a solid chicken house, large enough for a hundred hens, with an extra-long chicken run attached.
Everywhere I looked, I saw good soil. Cattle love sweet grass, and this place had plenty of it.
The gate looked as old as the homestead. People don’t give much thought to gates, and that’s okay. Gates don’t really care about many of them either.
It’s very likely that this gate remembers nearly everything that’s happened on and around the property.
I can picture the teenagers passing through it on a Saturday night on their way to town. How many young adults have ventured out for a phosphate, a cherry limeade, or a hot fudge sundae with a favorite beau or gal?
Think of the number of cattle, bought and sold, that have passed through. How many pickups or stake-body trucks have made their way through the gate? More than one wife, clasping her abdomen heavy with child, has sped through this residential portal.
Imagine the fun the little children had, climbing all the way to the nearly unattainable top rail. And the games of older children, riding the top bar like a bull while their pals opened and closed it at alternating speeds.
Gates mirror the people they live with. Gates that belong to grumpy homesteaders squawk like an abandoned outhouse door on Halloween. Owners who care for their property regularly oil the hinges and lubricate the latch. Every other year, they give the gate a fresh coat of whitewash or paint. That’s why on one or two stormy nights, when somebody forgot to close and latch the gate, it did so on its own…and chuckled to itself after Dad or Grandpa sent a young ’un out to make sure the gate was closed.
Think of the girls dressed in puffy crinolines, leaning over the top rail to experience the wonderment of their first fleeting kiss.
Perhaps the gate can remember when one of the young men had a spat with the love of his life. The moon was full, and so was the lad’s belly. He’d drunk more than his share of beer and followed that with a bit of firewater. He sat on the top rail, tilted his head back for another hit on the jug, fell over backwards, and landed on his elbows and knees. They found him the next morning, in the same kneeling position with his forehead on the earth, snoring like a sick bull. He was inside the gate, which had come ajar like it was trying to protect him.
Gates know sadness too. More than one of those long black sedans has motored, like a whisper, through the gate, carrying relatives of a deceased family member. On more than one occasion, members of the military have driven through the gate, leaving behind tear-stained faces of dads, moms, husbands, wives, sons, and daughters, alone with a folded flag.
How many times has the gate kept the family dog company as it sat looking down the road, waiting for the school bus?
Don’t diminish the importance of a gate. It’ll serve you, protect you, care for your children and livestock, and act as a plaything for the young at heart.
Burleigh knew all that too.
He never did buy the place. Sylvie needed two operations, and he had all he could do to meet the monthly payments for her medical bills. His brother, Ralph, with an artificial leg and one eye, bought the place with funds from an insurance settlement.
He said Burleigh could run his cattle on the land, as long as he took care of the gate
Author’s note:The above is a selection from my book, Moonshadows: 12 nostalgic snapshots of life. Click here for more information about the book.