Life is too short to sit on the fence

I love listening to the cooing of my mourning doves. Her distinctive lullaby brings back warm memories of late-night visits to my grandmother’s 100-year-old home.

I would curl up in the feather bed and wake up to the beautiful cooing of mourning doves. They perched on a fence near the house and their coos floated softly through the air to my open bedroom window. The fence seemed to be their favorite spot as they sat together for hours, just cooing and watching the world go by.

My mourning doves have the same habit my grandmother’s doves had, in that they are also “fence keepers.” Every day they perch in a row on the fence, cooing and basking in the sun. Even when it’s cold and windy, the pigeons will take their daily station at the top of the fence. My squirrels love to run around the top of the fence, and many times I have seen a squirrel stop, look at the row of pigeons, and contemplate if it should turn into a bowling ball and strike. After a few seconds of reflection, the squirrels will dismiss that idea and run to the ground, run for several feet, and then climb back up the fence to reach the top and continue their run. Pigeons sit quietly and continue to be “fence keepers”.

When I was young, I loved to climb anything. As a toddler, he was a crib and playpen escape artist.

By the time he was 4 years old, he could climb a tree, climb fences, climb ropes, and climb clothesline poles. There was nothing he couldn’t climb, especially fences.

My father built our fence and stretched all the wire himself, attaching it to the wooden posts and stringers. It was a great fence to climb. I could get over that fence in less than a minute. My father knew that I would climb the fence, so he came up with a rule that he thought would discourage me from attempting my next conquest. he didn’t. The rule was very simple. He could scale the fence as long as he didn’t bend the top of the metal fence as he went over it.

Normally I would get my leg up to the top of the stringer, but that would mean my foot would hit the top of the cable and possibly bend it on my way over the fence. I studied my challenge and finally figured out how to get up and over the fence without bending the wire.

Dad shook his head when he saw me carefully straddle the cable without bending it. I was so confident in my ability until one day, in my haste to jump the fence, the top of the wire caught me in my shorts. I was stuck. I couldn’t get my shorts out of a bend in the top cable.

Sitting on the fence, I had to make a decision. Either I had to sit there until someone came, or I had to jump up and rip my pants off. My mother had warned me about tearing my clothes on the fence. After a few more attempts at trying to gain my freedom, I knew I had a choice to make: wait an undetermined amount of time or put up with my mother’s ever-ready speech that began with the words “I warned you.”

I chose the speech of the mother and the freedom of my “sitting close”. With a quick prayer that the shorts were repairable, I yanked hard and jumped to the ground. I had a few scratches, and the ripped section of the shorts remained on the cord, but I had made my decision and was finally free. Mother said her speech. I couldn’t scale the fence for a few days. My father shook his head again, but I was “outside the fence” and getting on with my life. I made my decision. There is no “sit close” for me. He had more things to climb.

We come across many daily decisions in our lives. Some are easy to resolve, and others require a little more time, research, and consultation with others to reach a decision. Many times, however, we think too much about it and become “fence keepers”, just like my mourning doves.

One of my favorite hobbies is treasure hunting at garage sales. On a few occasions, I saw something I liked but just couldn’t come to a decision. When I finally decided to buy it, someone else had just picked up the item and was on their way to pay for it. I sat “on the fence” too long.

Twenty years ago I found a wonderful miniature schnauzer puppy. He was adorable, but I was still grieving the death of my 4 year old miniature schnauzer due to severe and uncontrollable epilepsy. I was “sitting close”. Day after day he went to visit the little furry bundle of energy. This routine continued for three weeks until one day another couple came to visit while I was there. I could tell they were seriously thinking about buying it. I “off the fence”. I bought it and had 17 years of joy with my little son.

Are you thinking about any decision? Some people will stay “on the fence” and just wait to see what develops. That is the decision of indecision. Make this the day you decide to “get off the fence.” Life is too short to “sit close”. Decisions that are not made can change the direction of your life.

I never would have enjoyed 17 years with my schnauzer son if I hadn’t “jumped over the fence.” He may get a few scratches, a few bruises, and may even rip a pair of shorts along the way, but he only gets one life. He get off the fence and go live it.

Kim Fortune is a freelance reporter and columnist for the Huron Daily Tribune. You can reach her by emailing