It’s an Event.

photo by Jeb Feldman

Fence. Fence weekend. It’s an Event. If any of you out there have done DPW in the past, you might be impressed to learn that we did the entire thing in a day and a half. For those of you who don’t know the details, let me put it this way:

7.5 miles of fence
2,000 t-stakes pounded
27,000 knots tied
1.5 days.

The orange trash fence that surrounds the city is extremely important: if it isn’t up, then nobody can stay on the playa. However, it can’t go up until the first day of our permit. So on Friday, Mayfield rolled through the trailer park at 5:00 am with his horn blaring, and by 7:00 the entire crew was headed to the Black Rock Desert to claim us some federal land!

I had no idea the city would grow this quickly, once it started. I’ve been coming out here since spring, and I was used to the sweeping emptiness of the desert. Working with the Survey crew, I had stood at the exact center of the city and looked down the lines of flags marking the Promenades, attempting to visualize how it will look in a few weeks. And I could see it: at night, the lights jumping and curling all over the Esplanade… bursts of flame and flickering neon… the Thunderdome, roaring and caked with people… the bright white glow of Center Camp… the intricate, pensive Temple. I could see all of it, and I still can. What I couldn’t visualize was how the city would look as it grew.

But there we were, 7:00 in the morning, and there were trucks and people everywhere. Huge plumes of dust roiled behind semis as they sped across the playa, packed with supplies. The Man site was crawling with forklifts and lights and DPWers in hard hats. It’s all started: the city is now officially under construction.

So we got to work rolling out the fence.

T-stake pounders don’t look like much, but they weigh plenty. The technique is simple and back-breaking: lift the sucker over your head and pound it onto the stake. Rinse and repeat. It can take anywhere from three to thirty strokes to get it into the ground – and I’ve only heard legends of people getting it in three strokes.

This year, DPW got seven miles of stakes pounded in less than one day.

Tying the fence is much less glamorous, but a little easier on the back – and after doing it for a day and a half, my forearms are killing me and I’ll never forget how to tie a square knot again. Cowboy Carl’s got the system all worked out, and so we walked and stretched and tied and walked and drank lots of water all day.

Carl is a local as well as a Burner, and a fascinating guy too. According to him, DPW is changing a lot of minds around here. He told me a story about the time a local law enforcement official came out to watch. He’d seen the scruffy, dirty DPW roaming around town yelling and cursing, and figured they were good for nothing. But after watching the fence go up, he told Carl: “Well, they’re the ugliest group of people I’ve ever seen, but they sure as hell can work.”

I actually think we’re kind of cute. Don’t you? But yes, we can work, and by the time the weekend volunteers got here to help, the job was practically finished.

About the author: The Hun

The Hun

The Hun, also known as J.H. Fearless, has been blogging for Burning Man (and many other outlets) since 2005, which is also the year she joined the BRC DPW on a whim that turned out to be a ten-year commitment. Since then she's won some awards for blogging, built her own creative business, and produced some of the Burning Blog's most popular stories and series. She co-created a grant-funded art piece, "Refoliation," in 2007, and stood next to it watching the Man burn on Monday night during a full lunar eclipse. She considers that, in many ways, to have been the symbolic end of Burning Man that was. The Hun lives in Reno with DPW Shade King, Quiet Earp. You may address her as "The Hun" or "Hun". If you call her "Honey" she reserves the right to cut you.