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You meet the nicest people just stopping to ask about a fence

By Linda Marcum - Thursday, April 17, 1969

Just outside of Mell, Kentucky there is a long stretch of cedar rail fencing that has stirred many a fellow's curiosity over the years since it was built, and being one of the many, I couldn't resist stopping by the farm house where the fence ended to ask how old it was.

A soft spoken, small built woman came to the door and was exceptionally nice about answering a total stranger's questions concerning the fence. She couldn't remember the exact year it was built, however, so we walked across the road to the barn and she called to her husband, 75 year old Perry Acree, and asked what year he had built the fence.

Perry stopped his work immediately and yelled back to her, "my God Etta, that must have been 25 years ago at least! Why?"

"Well," his wife explained, "this girl wanted to know how old the fence is."

Perry Acree turned to me with a satisfactory grin, "girl, "he said, "that fence has caused more talk since it was built than anything around these parts.

"Why, when I built that fence every one of my neighbors told me I was plum crazy. They said it wouldn't last over three years, and you can see for yourself how long it's been there, can't you? Back in the days when I built that fence, during World War II, you couldn't get no nails to speak of so I bought what few I could at the store and we used some old rusty ones I had saved around here and me and my boys build that fence in just about two months!

"Yessir, everybody around here said I was crazy for puttin' up that fence but I been growin' tobacco As high as that house ever since I cut them little old Cedars of that land to build it with!

"Girl," he said as the three of us started back across the road, "the main reason I built that fence was so I could have somethin' like my great, great granddaddy and Dan'l Boone would've had. Those people didn't build things for comfort, you know, they took just what they had and made just what they needed out of it and that was that. When I was a boy, I'd stand around and watch 'em and that's how come me knowin' how to build things like that fence and the woodshed and my old barn.

"I watched them and learned how to split up the logs and make my own planks... Why, I could build just about anything that way! Yessir, that's how come I know how to build a fence like that and to make do with what I have in times like those depression years, and I'm still aimin' to build me a log cabin just like my great, great granddaddy and Dan'l Boone would've lived in. Where'd you say you were from?"

"Metcalfe County," I told him.

"Oh yes, we have relatives over there, don't we Etta? Yeah, all the Acrees settled in these parts when they came out from Virginia. Why my great granddaddy was the first County Judge of Russell County. He sure was. Emmanuel Acree was his name and after he was Judge of Russell County he moved to Columbia and he was jailer and then clerk over there. I reckon he got tired of those offices though, because he moved over to Center, it was called Lafayette in those days, and he was a tinster there for years.

"I once wanted to go over to Russell County and look up the records on my great granddaddy, but don't you know, that John Morgan and his bunch had come through there during the Civil War and burnt that courthouse at Jamestown to the ground and, of course, there went the records of my great granddaddy.

" you know, girl, Metcalfe County joints green and a deer right down here below George Taylor fins grocery store. Back before the war I was constable in Greene County and in those days the law was that you couldn't chase a thief across the county line. Why, my God, a fellow would do somethin' he ough'ent and he'd run right across one of them county lines and just stand there and laugh at you! Yessir, them was the aggravatinest times I ever did see!"

It was getting pretty late in the evening by then, Perry Acree needed to get back to his work in the barn lot, and as much as I hated too, we ended one of the most delightful conversations I've been a part of in ages.

At 75 and 68, Perry and Etta Acree are two of the spryest people I've ever met... Yessir, you meet the nicest people by just stopping to ask about a fence.


2001 - I recently had a far away, smoky memory of the happy meeting and wondered if it really happened and if it was really documented - the only thing I knew to do was call the library where copies might have been preserved.

Indeed, the Metcalfe County Library does have records of the Edmonton Herald News and a magic customer service person named Rachel made my day when she took my request, researched it and sent me the copy. I'm grateful to revisit it and have the opportunity to share it. - Linda Marcum Waggener

This story was posted on 2021-07-19 10:39:09
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Perry and Etta Acree and the fence he built

2021-07-19 - Photo by Linda Marcum, 1969.
You meet the nicest people by just stopping to ask about a fence.

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