Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Cattle Guards, Farm Gates, and Human Behavior

We live in a rural area now, and across the road from the small development where our house sits is a farm, one with a barn and a machinery shed near the road and a house nestled further from the road in a grove of trees. The farm is a good neighbor, as farms go. The man who owns it runs cattle, and so there are no odors from large poultry houses or swine pens. As I understand, the farm is owned by one person, but the house is rented to a middle-aged couple and their adult son.

As with most farms in this country, it is fenced, post oak or bois d'arc wooden posts, barbed wire, and a stretch of hog wire. And there's a drive-way entrance set back and a metal gate leading to the highway.

Graham Industries
Each day the three who live on the farm make at least five to ten trips through that gate, a process that requires them to drive to the gate; stop and exit their vehicle; walk to the gate and open it; get back in their car; drive through the gate; get out of their car; walk back and close the gate; and then get on with their trip.

I see these trips because the room where I write and read faces the gate almost directly. Each of those sorties consumes at least three minutes, and of course, every trip out requires a return trip. 

I remarked on this to our neighbor, saying "I wonder why those folks don't install a cattle guard?"

Cattle guards are simple affairs, most often round pipe welded together. With the pipes being round and separated by several inches, the cattle will not step on the pattern. It is only necessary to make the guard big enough that a cow or steer cannot jump over it.

"There's already one there," my neighbor replied. "They use the gate anyway."

And so once again I'm left to puzzle over something that seems entirely illogical. Granted, it is truly none of my business. I suppose it bothers me because one of the best things I learned before I evolved to a power wheelchair was efficiency of movement: Get up in the morning and get everything you need out of the bedroom so that you don't have to make three or four trips back across the carpet.

The gate-and-cattle guard dilemma isn't my affair, and predicting or analyzing human behavior is a fool's game, but ...

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