texasnist fences
If two ranches are separated by a length of old barbed-wire fencing and that fence needs repair, who is responsible come fence-mending time?

Illustration by Jack Unruh

Q: If two ranches are separated by a length of old barbed-wire fencing and that fence needs repair, who is responsible come fence-mending time?
Name Withheld, Weatherford

A: Your inquiry is more well-timed than perhaps you know. It was 130 years ago this very summer that the Fence Cutting War broke out, a conflict pitting the state’s landholding ranchers, who had begun to aggressively cordon off their property after the introduction of barbed wire in the 1870’s, against its landless cowpunchers, who clung fiercely to the (less and less open) open range. When a severe drought made access to water and grass even more difficult, the free rangers began roaming about with wire cutters, wreaking havoc; the ranchers fought back. After the dust settled (literally—it being a drought, there was a lot of actual dust), the nipping of fence wire had been made a felony offense in Texas. But you came to the Texanist for counsel about the upkeep and repair of a common fence between two ranches, not a history lesson. The question, of course, is whether the fence is truly common or if its provenance can be established by reference to old documents, land surveys, and so on. But really, what fence between two spreads is not common? In the case of ranches, or any sort of adjoining property, one cannot build a fence, or any sort of boundary, without benefiting one’s neighbor, even if one doesn’t want to benefit one’s neighbor because one’s neighbor is an ornery old cuss. Such fences are, by their very nature, shared objects, though their purpose is to divide. But you came to the Texanist for maintenance advice, not armchair philosophy. In truth, though, it is exactly these sorts of historical and philosophical digressions that account for how long it can take some ranchers to get things done. The Texanist can picture a pair of them, standing out in their respective pastures, staring at a tangled heap of barbed wire, scratching their respective heads as they silently mull the mysteries of life and the two pertinent factors at play: “Do I have anything that needs a-fencin’ in?” and “Does he have anything that needs a-fencin’ out?” The Texanist’s favored scenario has both men answering themselves in the affirmative, quickly shaking hands, and thus sealing a deal whereby the costs and labor will be split down the middle.

Q: Several days a week, when I get home from work, I take my dogs for a short walk around our East Dallas neighborhood. Lately, I have gotten in the habit of taking a can of beer with me for the walk. It’s a leisurely stroll that helps me unwind from the workday, so I figure why not accompany it with a nice cold one. My wife disagrees. She says it is inappropriate to walk down the sidewalk with an alcoholic beverage in hand. Is it okay to drink a beer on a dog walk?
Daniel McClellan, Dallas

A: The Texanist applauds your style. If no local ordinance prohibits you from sucking down a can of beer out on the public walkways of your neighborhood while unspooling the stress of a long day at the salt mines, then neither should anything or anybody else stand in your way, your well-mannered and no doubt well-intentioned missus included. There is absolutely nothing wrong with doing so. Nothing at all. As evidence of this fact, the Texanist would refer you to his garage, where, gathering dust in the back corner, amid a heap of accumulated flotsam, sits the stroller he once used to push his little baby girl Texanist around their neighborhood. Upon inspection, you will find that, among the buggy’s many bells, whistles, and remnant Cheerios, there is a built-in beer holder. Now why, the Texanist rhetorically asks, would the people at the stroller company have included a beer holder if it were not perfectly acceptable to walk down the street drinking one? He rests his case. Cheers!

Q: My son recently visited a petting zoo and fell in love with one of the goats they had. It’s been more than two months, and he hasn’t stopped talking about that goat. He turns ten in July, and his father and I are considering surprising him—with a goat! One question, though: Do goats make good pets?
Dana Bustamante, Richardson

A: The Texanist has never kept goats and will admit that his experiences with them have been mostly passing encounters. Nonetheless, he has a well-formed opinion about them, which is that they are crazy. For example, the Texanist’s brother once had a pet goat named B.A. (short for Bad Attitude) that would greet guests by rearing menacingly back on his hind legs and assuming a very unwelcoming butting posture. The only defense against B.A.’s unprovoked aggressions was to meet his oncoming horned head with a boot, which he seemed to enjoy so much that everyone began to suspect it was the reason he reared back in the first place. The Texanist also had the opportunity to make the acquaintance of another goat, Clay Henry Jr., one of the famous beer-drinking goat mayors of Lajitas. As if the fact that Mayor Henry was a goat and an elected official and a prodigious beer drinker were not novelty enough, His Honor was also known to cycle the brew through his system and (cover the children’s eyes!) drink it again—straight from the, ahem, tap, if you catch the Texanist’s drift. Disgusting. And ingenious—in a goaty sort of way. So back to your question: Do goats make good pets? Well, they can be entertaining. For a little while. But a dog might be a better bet. You could always name him Billy.

Q: Plastic snap-on lids for coffee cans were brilliant. To stop making the cans out of metal, not so smart. Do you have a good idea where else to pour off hot bacon grease for disposal?
Gene LeRoy, Montgomery

A: Metal coffee cans with resealable plastic lids do make good storage containers for everyday household bacon drippings. Wait, did you say for “disposal”? “Bacon grease for disposal”? The Texanist is confused, for in his mind excess bacon grease has always been more of an ingredient for prolonged Southern-style deliciousness than something to be nonchalantly tossed out with the onion skins and sliced bologna casing-ring thingies. A Montgomery man such as you should know this. The best method the Texanist has found to dispose of leftover bacon grease is by way of tasty bacon-grease biscuits with bacon-grease redeye gravy, sided with bacon-grease-sautéed nopalitos, onions, and jalapeños, or a big bacon-grease-fried bologna and cheese sandwich and a bacon-grease chocolate chip and pecan cookie. Dishes like these, among many others, make a much better bacon-grease receptacle than the trash can. And if you can’t start cooking them up right away, well, there are countless suitable alternatives (some made specifically for bacon grease) to a metal coffee can with a resealable plastic lid. For instance, an empty jelly jar will work fine.