Fences, we love em, we hate them. They keep things in or out. There are songs, poems, odes, laments, even a “proverb” of sorts.
It’s interesting that the specific wording of the proverb, “Good fences make good neighbors” is fairly modern. It comes from Robert Frost’s poem Mending Wall from 1914. The poem centers around this concept of fences and questions whether it’s true or not.
Edward Abbey was never short on his feelings about fences. Abbey summed it up pretty well in his character Jack Burns from his novel “The Brave Cowboy” which was made into a movie titled “Lonely Are the Brave” starring Kirk Douglas. Mr Douglas reflected on Abbey’s death in this letter to the editor of The Los Angeles Times in 1989:
Death of Writer Edward Abbey
I was very sad to read in your paper that author Edward Abbey (“Thoreau of the American West”) has died (Part 1, March 16). In your detailed obituary, I was astonished that no mention was made of his book “The Brave Cowboy.”
I came across a paperback edition of this book around 1960, and was deeply moved. I bought the movie rights and finally persuaded Universal to allow my company, Bryna, to make the film,. In the cast with me were Gena Rowlands, Walter Matthau and William Shatner, and introducing Carrel O’Connor in a small role. They all gave marvelous performances.
In the opening scene, I played Jack Burns (Edward Abbey), who rides across a wide plain and comes up to a large wire fence. I get off my horse, taking a pair of pliers, cut the fence and ride on. In your article you quote Abbey: “I am the one who loved un-fenced countries.”
I never met Mr. Abbey, but we wrote to each other several times. I apologized to him that the studio insisted on changing the title of “Brave Cowboy” to “Lonely Are the Brave.”
In the more than 60 films that I’ve made, this is my favorite. I am very pleased when I get a letter, or someone comes up to me saying it is also their favorite.
Hollywood was capable of transferring the feelings of this great environmentalist to film. People will always be able to see as well as read the beliefs of this great man in “Lonely Are the Brave.”
KIRK DOUGLAS Beverly Hills
I have spent more than a few boxes of Kleenex on this movie!
Mend your fences on your journey†††nada te turbe†††jim