I have always loved old rusty gates, small or large. We have a few around the house which I have bought (or very rarely found tucked in an old shed). But there are no decorative, rusty pipe gates hanging around on any of our fences or going into our paddocks anywhere. I know as I have looked, many times.
Unlike me most farmers I know intensely dislike rusty, old, quirky, gorgeous gates. They really like plain, ugly gates, probably because rusty, quirky gates dont keep the sheep in and are not practical.
Why shouldn’t we have gorgeous gates? I just want to look at them, not open them.
Back in the early days before our four kids came along my ‘gorgeous farmer husband’ and I would regularly take drives around the property, checking the sheep and the crops. It was a lovely outing but there was one downfall. I was sitting in the front passenger seat, which made me the designated ‘gate opener’ and as every farmers wife knows most of the time that is not a fun job. (Once the kids come along and get old enough and strong enough the job can be delegated). Most gates on our farm are tricky, to say the least and they are not even beautiful, rusty old quirky ones.
Most gates into the paddocks are either heavy and large and not hanging right so once you convince the weird awkward chain with the bit of extra wire to open, you then have to let the gate swing, (hopefully in the right direction), it hits the ground as you chase it and then you have lift it up and walk it out of the way of the ute. I am puffed even writing about this.
Then there are the all wire gates, strung up tight, sometimes with barbed wire across the top and always with a very tricky handle. Once you release the pipe handle from its little wire ring holder you need the muscles of ‘Thor’ to hold it or it feels like it is going to fling back and break your wrist.
That is just opening the gates. I haven’t even got around to how hard it is getting them shut!
So “gate opener” is not a prestige job and it is often thankless. You get out in the cold wind or rain and struggle with the gate. Nothing happening. Great. Throwing a glance of “help me I am stuck” to the the ‘handsome farmer husband’ who is warm and dry in the ‘commanding boss’ drivers’ seat of his ute. He then looks at you with a questioning glance, “really?” You can see him thinking. “You need help with that?” “It is only a gate”. So he puts the handbrake on in his ute and waltzes over opening the awkward gate with ease. “This old thing is easy, you just have to do this….” he says. The ‘handsome farmer husband’ has had 20 years of experience opening this gate. He has ridden with his dad as shotgun and the “gate opener” for many years before he moved up into the ‘boss’ driver of the ute. So now he is in a position to be able to delegate to the next in line. Which is ‘little old farm wife’ me. So I am eternally grateful for the muscles and knowledge of my ‘handsome farmer husband’. So then eventually when you do get a couple of gates open all by yourself, you feel like Wonder Woman. Look at me! Way to go girl! I can open these gates! And I have only just started my apprenticeship as “gate opener”.
Now I am not suggesting by any means that we are weak and insipid women who should wait in the ute for our strong husbands to do all the physical work. No! What I believe is that men obviously designed these gates, because if it was designed by a woman any four year old child could open it and close it with ease. That being said I am not designing gates, unless they are rusty, beautiful quirky ones that I can see from our house that don’t need opening at all.
The joy of being gate opener is that there is time together in the ute, it is a ritual of learning and also working together. Learning how to open a gate, learning the best place to access the paddock, learning the names of every paddock or block and learning about the love of the land.
Fortunately we have another generation to pass that onto and I am now happy to pass on the mantle. I get to sit in the back and just chill, observing my ‘handsome farmer husband’ and his kids communicating, engaging and learning. We have four “gate openers” now and it is a joy for me to see the knowledge of the farm being passed on from their Dad. And just for the record they are all better “gate openers” than me.