Black Rock City’s trash fence was invented by Lawrence Breed in 1996 to ensure Burning Man leaves no trace.
On August 5, 2016, the trash fence went up once again, establishing the borders of what will be Black Rock City. Below are accounts from some of the hard-working DPW members that accomplished the Herculean feat of laying nine miles and 6,000 fence stakes of the iconic trash fence.
Thanks to Flophouse, Eva, President, Duchess, Jenn Kotila, Kimba for sharing their stories from the front lines.
Eva from Man Base beautifully illustrates Fence Day…
“On Friday morning (night) I woke up 2 AM to drive with my friends Lew and Lyndsey from Reno straight to the playa in Black Rock Desert to arrive there just before the sunrise to pound T-stakes and tie orange-colored fence around the constantly arising Black Rock City. It’s this time of the year again! The reoccurring dream for the 8th time for me.
“This will be the year of celebrating the work and ideas of the mastermind Leonardo da Vinci! Can’t wait to get the mister Man up on a wheel and turning!”
— Eva Reiska www.storiesindrawings.com
Shaye Harty aka “President” takes us along on her first Fence Day
Flophouse’s detailed account of his day on fence…
Photo by NotNinja
“Dawn Patrol is indeed the Fence team that claims the most glory, as they walk (or run!) the entire perimeter with heavy-ass pounders and drive countless fence stakes deep into the playa. How many resounding chink-chink-chinks does it take for every stake to sink into the surface, and how many blisters grow on every pair of hands that lifts those pounders so many times? And even in the brisk dawn air, every pounder’s biceps soon glisten with sweat against the beautiful backdrop of an orange sunrise over the mountains.”
Duchess chimes in on Dawn Patrol’s String Team…
“Another important and oft overlooked facet of Dawn Patrol is the less-glorious but no less bad-ass String Teams.
Two squads of precision string tiers gather and set out to tail the Pounder Crews, horizontally running three different heights of string as tight as we can get it, leaning our body weight into it, looping and pinching clove-hitch knots until our tape-wrapped fingers blister and our legs are jelly. The bottom line is the hardest line to hold (isn’t it always?), but once you find the rhythm and technique, the willpower of laughter, electrolytes and common goals are unstoppable. It’s always a race against the sun and yet this year Point 3, where our two teams eventually collided, arrived faster than we thought.
Still, no rest for the wicked- the sun was at a threatening angle as we piled into our support truck among spools of plastic string and our lunches, and rolled over to the main-body teams, dropping in alongside to kick, pull, and secure that iconic orange stretch of horizon line for Black Rock City.
Fence Day is one of the only times our Department, without division of Crew, gets to work together side by side, bonding in a way we don’t really get to the rest of the season. I think that’s important, and the ritual of it lends to the feeling that keeps us coming back, year after year.”
—Duchess, DPW Volunteer Coordinator.
Now back to Flophouse…
“Alright troops, line up and count off!” was our welcome from ‘Just George,’ and we immediately did just that. With just 28 crew-members on hand to build fence, however, I could see the consternation on his face as he made the difficult decision to set off with just one fence crew… In past years we’ve had two or three crews working simultaneously, each about that size. It’ll take a little longer this year, we all realized, but we’ll get it done either way.
“‘Le Wrench’ led our team from Point 1 in the direction of Point 2, backed up by ‘The Deacon’ with his megaphone-decibel voice. ‘Duck Hunt’ and ‘Mancandy’ left in the back of the Shade Crew’s other rig, El Cap, throwing down the weathered rolls of orange fence material at 300-foot intervals. ‘Saw’ and ‘Bees Knees’ kicked out the first roll, ‘Wrench’ and I pulled the other end of it around Point 1, and the tiers were ready to start tying it to the posts and to the blue rope.
It took some time to get our rhythm going, to find the perfect balance between each of the moving parts so nobody was waiting on anyone else.
The tying team. Photo by Flophouse
“The cutting team was in the shade trailer cutting spools of rope into short and long lengths to supply all the tiers. Two people kicked out the fence rolls, followed by the surgeons who stitched overlapping sections together with a bunch of short-rope knots. The pullers then yanked the fence taut at each successive stake, while the long-rope tiers tied it on with double-wrapped knots at the top, middle and bottom. The short-rope tiers came in behind, tying at least three sets of square knots onto the top, middle and bottom ropes between each pair of posts. A dedicated mooper rounded out the team in the rear, picking up any loose scraps of dried-out rope from previous years before it could hit the playa.
Photo by Shaye Harty aka President
“This whole tying process is essentially a constant game of leapfrog, where you walk past all the other tiers to the fence-front and set to work on your top, middle, and bottom knots, and by the time you’re done you find yourself back behind everyone else again. The repetitive knot tying takes its toll on the hands, with specific blister spots where we pull each one tight every single time.”
The kickers have their own pains, unrolling roll after roll of old fence for miles.
The pullers have to put their fingers into the fence’s lattice and yank it while the long-rope tiers do their thing, so their fingers are repeatedly dug into by the net-like mesh.
The rope cutters worked from the shade trailer, but it’s not exactly ergonomic: wrap rope around your arm about a dozen times, then force your blade through one end of the loop for longs, and twice for shorts.
“The clouds cleared up soon enough, though the wind remained strong. Our fence team worked steadfast into the heat of the day, cutting, kicking, stitching, pulling, tying and mooping. It was glorious to eventually see Point 2 in the distance, and know that we were nearly done with one of BRC’s five sides.
“Time for ‘Just George’ to lead us in a round of victory push-ups! After all the pounding, the squats, and the miles of walking under the sun, he was still ready to mess with us by restarting the count every time we thought we’d done enough. Then a few extras for good measure, and “Hua!”
Photo by Shaye Harty
“This year we installed over nine miles of perimeter fence by 3pm, with a reduced but dedicated crew of hard-working DPW. The Dawn Patrol team finished pounding shortly before 9am, and got straight to work tying fence. Bolstered by other crew members who joined from their respective crews later in the day, I’d say that this year’s method worked out pretty well.”
The ride back to point 1 after finishing fence. Photo by Anthony Vincent.
(Lead photo by John Curley)