Recent troubles in the land of Florida brought to mind a past security situation we had at Roundrock.
Roundrock, I’m sure you understand, is an 80+ acre parcel of land on a former cattle ranch. There are many other parcels that had been carved out of the ranchland. Some are smaller than Roundrock; many are much larger. We all share the same road leading into the center of the former ranch, and some of us then divert on easement roads to get to our respective properties. (Actually, the common road is an easement as well, but let’s not split hairs. I don’t think any lawyers read this blog. Not even my sister!)
Well, some years ago we had a small problem with vandals coming in and setting fires. It turned out to be some local youths having their particular idea of a good time (not some malicious evil doer with darker intent), and the malefactors were caught and dealt with. But one of our landowners, who is generally in charge of organizing the rest of us out of our lethargy (for things like getting the common road spread with a new layer of gravel every few years) thought we should have a locked gate along the common road to keep out interlopers. All of us beyond the gate would benefit from its security, yet we could pass through it since we knew the combination to the lock.
There is one point in the main valley where a gate from the glory days of the ranching empire had once stood. The gate was still there on the post, pushed back against the fence and nearly lost in the scrub and grass that had grown up through it. But our organizer, let’s call him Ron, was undaunted and soon had the gate swinging freely. For several months a note and many loose short lengths of chain hung in a plastic bag beside the gate post. We were each told to get ourselves a sturdy, weather-worthy lock to slip through the last link of the chain, adding another short length of chain beyond our lock. Eventually, it was understood, when all of the property owners beyond the gate had had the chance to add a lock, the gate would be closed and the chain put to use to keep it locked. Then as we came and went, we could simply open our own lock on this daisy chain, open the gate, and then close and lock the gate behind us.
The plan worked more or less just like that. In the months before the gate was locked, we put two locks on the daisy chain: one combination and one key lock. I can’t speak for the other landowers, but generally, when Libby and I were out at Roundrock just for the day, we would open the gate when we arrived and then leave it open all day. Only when we left would we close and lock it behind us. We figured that any other landowner who came during the day would appreciate finding the gate already open, and should he or she stay after we had closed it, he or she could still get through, knowing the combination of one of the locks. (And if someone who shouldn’t be there happened to be on the wrong side of the gate after it was locked, well, that would be a lesson, wouldn’t it?) I think there was only one time when we were leaving the gate open for the day that we came to it at the end of the day to find it locked.
This arrangement seemed to work fine, though I did hear some grousing from the person who had to get out of my truck to unlock and open the gate each time we arrived.
But then something changed. I’m not sure why it happened or who was responsible, but the gate was moved. The gate was taken off of the post where it had hung for decades, and a new post was set up on the common road nearer the paved road. This idea would greatly increase the number of landowners who would benefit from the security of the gate, but sometimes it’s best not to mess with a working solution.
The problem was not with the new location of the gate but with the hanging of it. There was no post in this new spot. In its stead was one of those wire baskets filled with our plentiful Ozark crop: rocks. Into this was slipped a length of wood, and into this wood were screwed the gate’s hinge pins. The plan was to hang the gate on these pins and then chain the gate closed to the second wire basket full of rocks on the other side of the common road.
Apparently there is an art to hanging a gate properly. This gate never worked. If the pins were pointing up, any interloper could simply lift the gate off its pins and speed on past. (I think even resourceful cattle could work out this solution.) So the bottom pin had to point up and the top pin had to point down, but the holes that had been drilled into the wood to hold the pin hadn’t taking this into account. And the assembly of the basket was difficult enuf to prevent anyone from going to the trouble of removing the length of wood to replace it with one with properly spaced hinge pin holes.
So the moved gate now hangs at an odd angle from its makeshift post, resting on some rocks and parallel to the road. We speed past it when we arrive, and I suppose any interlopers do as well, though we haven’t had any troubles recently. (Apparently those hunting interlopers I had some months ago are actually landowners beyond the gate. They just don’t hunt their own land.)
As for the chain of locks, I haven’t seen that in years. I suppose someone has it, ready to re-attach it when the gate is finally fixed. I still carry the key for one of my locks on the ring in my pocket and a spare key for it in the catch-all compartment between the seats of the truck. Some day when Libby and I arrive at Roundrock we will find the gate closed and locked and I’ll be glad I have that key since I’ve forgotten the combination to the other lock.
- First day of all/autumnal equinox: day and night are equal in length.