Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales



By Norris Chambers


            In the old days there were many gates to open and close. Public roads were scarce and it was usually necessary to pass through a few pastures to come and go. Of course there had to be gates to allow traffic and keep livestock from moving out. There were many different types of gates.

            The simplest gate was just three or four barbed wires fastened on one side to a fence post and stretched across the road. On the other side there was a vertical pole that stretched the gate to the fence post by means of a loop of wire at the bottom where the bottom of the pole was placed and another wire loop at the top that was slipped over the pole, after pulling it tight. A few vertical wires tied to the individual strands made a nice looking fence and it served the purpose well. Of course anyone traveling the road had to stop, unhook the gate, pull it back, and drive through. Then it had to be put back in position and closed with the loop. This worked well, but if the driver was alone he was forced to get out of his vehicle, open the gate and drive through, then go back and close it.

            Many farmers and ranchers who didn’t like opening and closing gates built
bump gates. They were called bump gates because they were opened by bumping them slightly with the bumper of the automobile. The vehicle then drove slowly through the opening and the gate automatically closed behind him. Of course there were several types but the most popular was a wooden gate about twenty feet across and about four feet tall. It was swung in the middle to a tall round post or iron pipe. It was mounted to the center post by two iron hoops that encircled the post, enabling the gate to revolve in either direction.  It was suspended at the proper height by a small cable that tied to one end of the gate, ran through a hole near the tope of the pole and then tied to the top of the opposite side of the gate. If the gate were pushed in either direction the cable would wind around the post, raising the gate a few inches as it approached an open position on each side. When released the weight of the gate caused it to rotate slowly to its natural closed position.

            The gate closed two drives, one for each direction of travel. The traveler approached the gate slowly and nudged it gently with the car’s bumper. The gate started opening and winding the cable around the post. A small post between the two drives stopped the gate and started it to unwind in the opposite direction. By the time this happened the vehicle had passed through and gone on down the road. The gate worked the same way when he came back through going in the opposite direction. Owners of Model T Fords did some complaining because those vehicles did not have bumpers and bumping the gate with the front fenders soon ruined the shiny black finish and left a few little dents. Some Ford owners added little rams to the front axle or frame and these worked OK. Others just got out and propped the gates open and complained constantly.

            Another type of fence closure that allowed travel without gate opening was called a stock gap or cattle guard. This crossing required a hole in the road about eighteen inches deep. The hole was as wide as the road and was about five feet across. The hole was covered with two inch pipe or poles places about six inches apart. The hole in the road and the distance between the pipes or poles scared horses and cows and they would not attempt to cross. Vehicles could drive across without a problem. However, wagons and buggies couldn’t cross and a regular gate was usually provided on the side for animal traffic. Goats were not scared of the gaps and would usually find a way to get on the other side.

            When an automobile came to a manually operated gate, it was the duty of the kid to get out and open it and close it when the car passed through. Some of these tight gates were a little hard for the youngster to close. But things like that are what made country kids tough and taught them to enjoy to the fullest the thousands of miles of roads that would come later with no gates.
            I always insisted on having fun in everything I did, but I must admit that opening and closing gates sometimes wore my patience a little thin!


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