Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Why do the poor spend so much on fences which serve no purpose?

There are many uses for fences. They can be used to keep people in or to keep people out. They can be used to keep your livestock from straying or your dog from running out in the road. They also can be used for privacy to block someone else's view into your property. Some fences also act as an acoustical barrier, shielding road noise or other noise from your home or business. And addition to providing privacy from prying eyes looking inward, a fence can also block an unsightly view. And in some instances, fences are even provided as an aesthetic decoration, particularly elaborate ones, such as stone or brick fences.

Fences also serve another use in that they demarcate a property line. In some instances this can be useful in physical terms to prevent people from trespassing on your property or building structures on your property or putting possessions or other materials on your property. They define the space.

For many people, fences also serve a psychic need in defining the perimeter of their property line. In that regard, you tend to see a lot of nonsensical fencing, particularly in poor neighborhoods in rural areas. These are fences that are not contiguous, but rather have many gaps in them. Clearly they are not keeping anyone in or anyone out or preventing the dog from running in the road. They are not preventing theft or burglars but rather defying a psychic boundary of the property.

These are not privacy fences either. We recently traveled through a rural part of Florida and noticed that many of the trailer homes by the side of the road (Route 301) had chain-link fences partially surrounding them. There would usually be gaps of 10, 20, or even 30 feet between disjointed sections of chain link fence. So clearly they were not intended to keep their pets for running onto the highway.

And since they were only three or four feet tall, they clearly were not erected with the intention of discouraging thieves and burglars, particularly since they were huge gaps in the fence. Similarly, these gaps in the fence were by design, not by accident or due to lack of maintenance.

And since chained link fence is open, they did not provide any amount of privacy protection to prevent prying eyes from looking into their house or to shield the view of the road. Nor did they provide any kind of acoustical barrier. And since they were chain-link they clearly were not decorative.

The question that hit me as we drove by miles and miles of these homes was why did people spend quite a bit of money to put up chain link fences around their trailers when they didn't completely encircle the trailer or provide any sort of closure. They provided no aesthetic value, noise reduction, privacy or anything that I could see. It puzzled me as to why people put up such fences.

To be sure, some of the properties had fences which completely encircled the property line, complete with a gate to entry. At least such a fence, although very ugly, would be functional in that it would keep your dogs in and possibly people out. But these fences seemed to be in the minority. The majority of the fences encircled only part of the property, usually the part facing the road, with huge gaps where the driveway was located or just random gaps appearing at odd locations.

Why is it that poor people put up such fences? I would think if your resources were limited, you would want to spend them on something other than a pointless section of chain-link fence which serves no purpose. This puzzled me considerably.

Another feature that you will find in some slightly higher-end homes in rural areas is the decorative gate fence near the driveway. These are usually brick constructions on either side of the driveway sometimes with a concrete sculpture atop them. These are not supports for Gates or any other fence structure but merely ornamentation. Again, I'm not quite certain what the purpose of these are other than the owner thought they made the house look more ostentatious.

New neighbors recently moved in and decided to put up a fence to keep their dog inside their backyard. As good neighbors, we agreed to pay for half of the portion on the bordering property line. The fence serves no purpose in terms of keeping people in or out, but does act as a privacy shield. Since there are few fences on the island, you can see across several properties if you are in the backyard. It is interesting that with the fence in place, it not only provides privacy, but also defines a space in the backyard which makes it look more intimate and aesthetically pleasing.

We also installed a gate in the front of the house so that we can park the buggy by the side of the house and it is not visible from the road. Thus, this provides an aesthetic improved by blocking the view from the outside. Before, when you drove down the road you could see our buggy and garbage cans by the side of the house which was not very attractive.

Behind our house is a concrete fence which was put up by a neighbor many years before we moved here. We have pressure washed and painted this face so it looks much nicer. However, the point of that fence also seems to debatable other than perhaps to keep in a small dog.

It seems the fences serve some sort of psychological need that people have to define boundaries and define personal space. We had the property surveyed before the fence was put up between our house and our neighbors, and I was surprised after the fence was up how much more property we actually had than what I thought we had. When there is no fence in place, one tends to err on the side of caution and not intrude on a neighbor's property. Or at least some people do. I was chagrined, after the new fence was up, to discover that our former neighbors had been gardening on our side of the property line.

Of course, fences are not cheap, either to buy or to maintain. While the new fence looks very nice, I'm sure in a few years it will turn gray and warp and need to be repaired.

As for the fences near the trailer homes along Route 301 in Florida, I'm still puzzled as to why someone would install a partial section of chain-link fence, other than to provide some sort of psychic boundary. The fence just not fencing anything in or keep anything out, but announces to the world where the property line is.

I would think, living so close to a busy highway, one would want some physical screening and acoustical screening to keep down the noise, headlights and the ugly view. A few well planted trees would act as a barrier for all of these. I would think that would be a more pleasant thing to have then interrupted sections of chain link.

But then again, a lot of what the poor do mystified me entirely.