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Building Fences

© ERIC FERGUSON
5348 48th Av. S.
Minneapolis, MN 55417
phone: (612)726-6364
eric@celticfringe.net
http://www.celticfringe.net



CHARACTERS:
John, a farmer in late middle age
Sam, his son, about 20

The year is 1905. JOHN is repairing his barbed wire fence. There are some fence posts partly strung with wire. An engine is heard in the background. JOHN is twisting the wire with a needle nose pliers and holding the wire with his other hand. He stabs himself on a barb. He calls for SAM.

JOHN

Ow! Sam. Sam. Sam! Turn that thing off! Sam! The boy will go deaf. Sam!!

(The engine is shut off)

Sam!

SAM

(offstage) Yes Paw?

JOHN

Can't you hear me calling you?

SAM

Not with the engine running.

JOHN

I need your help with the fence.

SAM

Not now Paw, I have to work on the automobile today.

JOHN

No you don't, now get over here.

(SAM enters)

You know this fence has to get done before the cattle can be let out to pasture. Or do you like hauling all that hay?

SAM

Can't it wait until tomorrow?

JOHN

The fence isn't going to wait until you finish tinkering with that contraption of yours.

SAM

I can spend all day on it tomorrow if you want, just not today.

JOHN

Why not today?

SAM

Ethan's paw is sick today, and he said me and Ethan can use his forge. We need to make a couple parts for the automobile.

JOHN

Ain't you too old for toys at your age? There's work to be done. The farm don't run itself.

SAM

I know, but we're thinking after we learn how to build this one, we can build more and get a couple hundred dollars for them!

JOHN

Now who around here's going to buy one of those things? Who do you know who's got that much money to throw around?

SAM

They're selling in town. And Ethan's paw is making parts for someone almost everyday anymore.

JOHN

Hold this wire.

SAM

Paw...

JOHN

Hold the wire while I twist it around the posts, or you twist while I hold, but either way you're doing this, not working on that damn noise maker anymore.

SAM

We have to use the forge when we got the chance.

JOHN

You need to pay attention to how to run the farm, or you ain't going to know how when the time comes you have to.

(SAM doesn't reply)

Well?

SAM

All right.

(He holds the wire.)

JOHN

I ain't never ever seen one of those things except it was stuck in the mud and getting pulled out by a horse.

SAM

They work good on paved roads.

JOHN

We don't got paved roads around here.

SAM

Some places got them.

(JOHN stops a moment and thinks)

JOHN

Well, we ain't one of those places with paved roads, and I don't see how we'll ever have a use for them.

SAM

We'll need them when everybody travels in automobiles.

JOHN

Don't talk nonsense. They cost more than a horse and they need fixing all time, judging by all the tinkering you do.

SAM

That's just now paw! They get better all the time! Everytime I see one it's got something new on it. Ethan just got a carburetor, which means you can control the air and gasoline mixture and once we figure out how to make it fit...

JOHN

Talk English Sam.

SAM

It'll run more smooth.

JOHN

Enough to pull out of mud?

SAM

I don't know.

JOHN

I do know. You shouldn't waste your time on it.

SAM

I'm not wasting my time! It's what I want to do! The world's going to be full of automobiles and I'm going to build them!

JOHN

You can't build those things and work the farm too.

SAM

I know.

JOHN

I see.

SAM

Come on Paw, you left home too.

JOHN

We won't be able to keep the farm in the family if you leave.

SAM

I don't want to spend my life digging potatoes.

JOHN

The potato is a noble food Sam. It kept us fed in some pretty hard times. You haven't seen a whole wheat crop get taken by locusts, and I don't think you're old enough to remember a hard drought where the fields look like boards that just been sawn. Potatoes grow through a lot. It doesn't hurt to dig some and remember how you got here.

SAM

I'm not going to forget how I got here. I just don't want to stay here.

(JOHN stops working and looks at SAM)

JOHN

Is that all this farm means to you.

SAM

You bought this farm Paw. It's not like it's been in the family for generations.

JOHN

No, it hasn't been in the family for generations. Grandpa's farm was the one we'd had for generations. Me and him ran it. I was supposed to inherit it.

SAM

Then why did he sell it?

JOHN

To pay his debts. He couldn't run it without me after I had to go my own way. He sold that one, and I ended up buying this one. I'm almost in the same place except with more debt. I should of stayed where I was. Hold up that wire. The fence won't put itself up.

(They start working again.)

SAM

It's not your fault he lost it.

JOHN

He needed another hand and he couldn't afford one. That's why he needed me.

SAM

He wouldn't change the way he did things. It's nothing to do with you. He wanted to flail grain all winter instead renting a threshing machine.

JOHN

He was a hard worker. Was he supposed to sit idle all winter?

SAM

You rent a thresher. I've never even seen you use the flail. It just hangs there in the barn. You should just use it for firewood.

JOHN

No! I'm not using it for firewood!

SAM

I don't mean that exactly. It's just that things change.

JOHN

Things don't just change unless you change them. What I changed was who owned my family's farm. If you want to change that too, just get in your automobile and drive away. Go on, go to Mr. Blackwell's forge and make some parts for yourself. Go sell your contraption for $200.

SAM

Paw, don't talk like that.

JOHN

I'll finish the fence by myself. Now let me get on with it. I can't let the cattle out to pasture until it's done.

SAM

Paw, let me help you.

JOHN

Go on. It's your only chance to use the forge.

SAM

I can finish the fence tomorrow.

JOHN

We need to start planting potatoes tomorrow. Go on.

(SAM exits as JOHN continues to work. The engine starts up again. Blackout, end of play.)

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