Skip to content


Friends are what keep us together in a civilized society. They fulfill the same role now as they did when groups of Neanderthals huddled together in their caves eons ago. They are the comfort in our daily lives and what in many cases keep us sane and healthy.

However, not all friends are the same. We must constantly examine our friendships to see into which of the following categories each belongs:

AcquaintancesThese are people we meet, usually in work or recreational situations. They are friendly, but often the relationships are not strong enough to merit the definition “friend.” We share activities such as opera, football or fishing with these individuals. These are comfortable people to have around. We see them just occasionally.

FriendsThese people are in fact friends. However, they usually have limits placed upon themselves that do not allow for much sacrifice or true understanding. They are often the ones who say, “I feel your pain, man!” when in fact tehy have felt little. They are well meaning and important parts of our daily lives. However, they often have an expiration date.

True FriendsThese are friends of the next level. Often, these people have gone “above and beyond” to share their lives with us and have true, deep feelings of loyalty toward us in all situations. These are the people who are regularly in our lives and who enrich our lives on a continual basis.

Life-long FriendsThese people are the cream of the crop but are almost always very few in number. The relationships with life-long friends are, as the description implies, developed over many years. Life-long friends are often not the closest friends on a day to day basis but they are always the ones we turn to when we need more than just a bit of moral support. They act as pillars on which we may always lean and the situation is always equal in its opposite.

Most of us are blessed if we have many in the first two categories, just a few true friends and perhaps one or two life-long friends. Where do you stack-up in terms of friends and befriending?

Note: The photograph is of a statue in the village of Senale, Bolzano Province, Italy.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Books JPG


Tirolean Names

I have always loved names, especially Tirolean surnames. Surnmaes were invented after first names ceased to distinguish various people in small villages and towns. Prior to the year 800, people usually only had given names in the Tirol. Hence, you find Johannes fu (or von) Dominicus to simply describe the birth of Johannes, son of Dominicus. It was a simple naming convention and it worked… for awhile.

Surnames were then used to distinguish between the various people having the same given name in any particular population center. They were often fashioned after the patriarch’s given name. Of the various Johannes living in one spot, the surname was added; perhaps Dominici to distinguish a particular Johannes who was descended from Dominicus. Surnames were always descriptive and were intended to differentiate for reasons of census and taxation.

But as populations grew, there were too many people of the same given name and same surname in any one location. Confusion once again reigned. In my native village of Cloz for example, there were many people named Giovanni Rizzi at any one time. What to do? In the Tirol, sopranomi (nicknames) were introduced.

Sopranomi were first used to distinguish people with identical names living in one population center or town. If there were too many Johannes Dominicis in one area, the sopronome helped to discern which Johannes Dominici was being named in any instance.

Sopranomi vary widely in the Tirol. Some are taken from physical characteristic, others from one’s occupation and still others from the patriarch of the family. I was, for example, born Picolo Alessandro di Eugenio Valentino Von Rizzi Regin. The last of this huge moniker is my soprnome, Regin. It derives from the fact that a very distant ancestor once worked in the court of Maria Teresa of Austria (regin = queen in our dialect) as a secretary. My grandmother’s sopranome was Segala, indicating that one of her ancestors was known for being born in a rye field. Sopranomi were mandatory for many years as populations in the Tirol grew. Both governments and local residents had to know who exactly was being referred to. Today, they are of little real importance although most families still carry them with pride as a cherished piece of their heritage. In fact in some villages, people are still known only by their sopranome rather than their surname.

But let’s turn our attention to those wonderful Tirolean surnames. Many simply mean “sons of” such as Michelini, Bertagnolli, Martinelli, Giuliani (sons of Michael, Umberto, Martin and Julian). Of all Tirolean surnames, this type is the most common. Hundreds of examples can be found, many ending in “i.” Sometimes surnames of German origin have been Italianized such as Gebardi (sons of Gebhart, which in turn means hardy and brave). Other Germanic surnames have survived intact such as Larcher (living among the larch ((tamarack)) trees), Mayrhofer (from the region of Mayrhof in Austria.) and Kirschbaumer (cherry grower).

Still other surnames are descriptive of physical characteristics such as my own surname Rizzi, which simply means “curly haired.” In my native village of Cloz in the Val di Non, there are only a few surnames: Angeli (Angels), Franch (free of taxation), Gembrini (born in December), Flor (flower), Floretta (little flower), Zanoni (sons of John), Canestrini (little jars), Rauzi (root harvesters) and of course Rizzi.

Yet other surnames describe a trade or residence location. These are commonly found in both the Italian and German rooted languages. Some examples of trade referenced surnames include Zadra (weavers), Kofler (land surveyors), Geiser (goat herders), Sartori (tailors), Mitterer (carpenters), Preti (priests), and Zucali (pumpkin growers).
Examples of residence referenced surnames include Aufderklamm (living on the gorge), Plattner (living on level fields), Egger (living on the corner), DalRi (living near the river), DallaValle (living in the valley), Dalsass (living among the stones), Dalpiaz (living in the piazza), Clauser (from Cloz) and Ausserer (living outside the edge of town).

Sometimes, surnames are super obvious. I recently saw a funeral notice for a woman whose maiden name was Carotta (carrot) and whose married name was Stanchina (a little tired). I joked that she had passed away as a “carrot who was a little tired.” Actually, the woman lived to 103 years; not bad for a tired old vegetable!

In all cases Tirolean surnames actually mean something, even if it has been lost in ancient local dialect. That’s where genealogists like me come in. Many of us are able to trace the exact origin of surnames, even if those words or names no longer exist or have been drastically changed.

Tirolean names – They are interesting and most have a very long and traceable history. If you would like your Tirolean name researched, please get in touch with me. Genealogy is what I do. You may contact me here:

Please follow this blog by clicking follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at


Important People

We all have people in our lives who we consider truly important. They stand out in our lives life rock pillars in a sea of Jello. They usually have helped shape our lives for the better in some dramatic fashion. We think of them occasionally with a smile while we are all alone but we often decline to name them publicly and say thank you.

I originally posted this to start a new year off right by feeling it was important to name the important people in my life. Here they are in the order I’ve known them:

1. My mother, Barbara Lee Allen. She is ever my intellectual inspiration and half of my soul forever. My mother was the most well read, literate person that I’ve ever known.  She had the most complex simplicity of being that I have ever known. Thanks mom for just being you.  I think of you every day. RIP

2. My father, Eugenio Valentino Rizzi. He was the best example of a father that ever was despite the fact that he never met his own father who died 8 months before he was born. He gave me my courage, my competence and half my soul. He was Concert Master for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra at age 20 and could cast a fly line better than anyone I’ve ever met. Thanks dad. You’re with me always. RIP

3. Mr. Samuels, my 6th grade teacher who taught me how to speed read at over 3,600 words per minute. That sounds ridiculous but it’s true. Reading super fast with total comprehension helped me get through high school and college easily. He was rigorous, tough and demanded a lot of me. I have learned to ask the same of others around me. RIP

4. Albert Mogg, my high school journalism teacher. Thanks for dealing with “youth misunderstood” in such a positive manner and showing me what and who I could be with a little application of will. He taught me that writing was a true art that needed to be applied in delicate but firm brush strokes. RIP

5. Karen Eckert, high school girl friend and good friend for over half a century. Thanks for keeping me guessing all these years. I remember your father busting the window in my ’56 Chevy when we were inside just talking. You are a sweetheart and have always been an inspiration.

6. Faye Louise Grindstaff, my college graduate adviser. You believed in me and helped me plant my standard in the teaching community. I always enjoyed your professional and personal friendship. I am sorry I left teaching but I had an infant son to raise by myself. Sometimes life throws you curve balls that you still have to catch.

7. Ray Allopena, friend, guitar player and good buddy when times were tough. Thanks for showing me I had the talent and the pair to carry on. I always promised myself that we would play one last song together after all those sets from long ago. I guess it will have to wait a bit. See you soon. RIP

8. Mary Ann LaFleur White, my post-first-marriage girl friend and life-long friend and supporter. You gave me the maturity, the space and the support I needed when I was coming out of some dark times. I love you always. Congratulations again on your recent marriage!

9. Geri Wiesneth, friend, lover and co-writer. Wow, I wouldn’t be the songwriter I am today without your constant support and fierce belief in my talent. I miss you so much. RIP

10. Ed LaFata, business partner and friend. We were quite the pair running Italia Productions in the 1970’s. You are a true professional musician with endless talent and energy. I am so glad you are still going strong. You are an inspiration to all of us!

11. All of you in the music and writing industries who have supported me through the years with the “attaboys” that we all need so much. Your collective support has been what has gotten me up in the morning for decades  and makes me want to do it all over again. Professional songwriters need the support of their peers as the music listening public rarely even knows their names. Thanks especially to Carol, Snuff, Sheila, Rita, Anne, Al, Crystal and Johnny (Mr. Apropos).

12. Last but always first,  Rachel, my beloved wife of 40 years. Above all, you are who I cherish every day with a love and gratitude that escapes words. You have put-up with my dreams, ego and type A personality for so many years and have loved me without fail. In return I have loved you for decades with a passion of a true believer. We are perfect together! Hope we have many more happy anniversaries my love!

Those are my top twelve. They are many others too numerous to list here. To all of you important people: I love you all and will remember you with distinct affection for all of my days.

Who are the important people in your life?

Photo: The happy Tiroleans on our 25th wedding anniversary (tanti anni fa).

Please follow this blog by clicking follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

All of these books were inspired by some of the people mentioned above.

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

Lunedi Senza Parole #189

Indovina dove! Guess where!
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

Please follow this blog by clicking  follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

I Y’am What I Y’am

Those of you from the 1950’s and 1960’s surely remember Popeye The Sailor and his classic line, “I y’am what I y’am!” To you millennials and others who are experientially challenged, I offer my apologies. Popeye was a classic cartoon but moreover a spokesman for iconoclasts everywhere back then. I was one of them.

I grew up with Popeye and learned his lingo and attitude well. It has both served me and deterred me throughout my entire life. “I y’am what I y’am” can mean a lot of things but it seems to always exude an attitude that basically says: “Hey, I’m who I am – if you don’t like it, too bad!” It is a form of honesty that I am thankful for learning at an early age. It has kept me true to myself and my beliefs for over 70 years. It has kept my compass straight as well and has kept me moving forward unimpeded by those who would doubt or criticize me to a fault.

However this forerunner of do your own thing has its down sides as well. It can also be met with: “Great but I don’t give a damn!” and “A little self-centered, are we?” Those are the perils of living one’s life with conviction. They can manifest themselves as job offers that never come as well as friendships and romances that are smothered from the first instant. I have been the recipient of all of these and much more. Sometimes being stalwart just doesn’t work in today’s world.

On balance I believe the “I y’am what I y’am” attitude is a healthy one that should be embraced by more people today. As of late, I have seen too many of what we used to call yes men and sycophants cluttering up the political and social landscape. Just going along with everyone else has historically been a non-starter and often a finisher. It’s no different today. Whether it’s millennials who just need to grow a pair or milk-toast geezers who can’t find a pair, Popeye has a few good lessons to be learned.

Over seven decades on I still admire the old sailor for his sand. Through the years, I have even learned to like spinach as well.

Please follow this blog by clicking follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

I Remember Nonna

Un’altra poema scritta in Val di Non, Italia dal mio libro Prescriptions from the Rhyme Doctor:


I Remember Nonna
© 2001 Allen E. Rizzi

I remember the face,
Old, very old;
Graced by God
In a life that was not.

I remember the voice,
Not quite sure;
In a new country’s tongue.

I remember the church,
The center
Of all life
With cold brick and warm love.

I remember the day,
Nonna died;
The first time
I saw my father crying.

I remember nonna,
Through the haze of time.

Leggi gli ultimi libri dell’autore Allen E. Rizzi disponibili presso

Books JPG

Fran Lori

For many years, I have been curious (along with millions of others) as to who sang the female voice part in Frankie Avalon’s song, “Why,” recorded in 1959. Lately I started researching this question in earnest. At every turn, singer Fran Lori comes up as being the probable singer; however without definite proof. A big mystery about the song is who exactly is the female voice that is heard on one of the verses of the song. She was not given credit on the record label (Chancellor) and a search of the internet didn’t reveal any definitive data.

“Why” is a hit song recorded by Frankie Avalon in 1959. It reached No. 1 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart published on the week of December 28, 1959. It was Avalon’s second and final No. 1 hit. “Why” was written and produced by Avalon’s manager and record producer Robert “Bob” Marcucci and Peter De Angelis. The melody is based on an Italian song. The Avalon version features an uncredited female singer (alleged to be Fran Lori), heard in the repeat of the first four lines of the first part of the song, with Avalon replying, “Yes, I love you”. He concludes the last quarter of the song with a coda, by himself. Here is the original recording (Note – The female voice comes in at 1:33):

One of the chief sources crediting Fran Lori to this song comes from the website “”MR. MUSIC””. On his post Jerry provides the following answer in response to a question posed by a reader of his web site:

Because I have no ironclad proof, I will provide an educated guess, along with the reasoning for my pick.

For their first three years (1957-1959), Chancellor’s talent roster was predominately male, with Frankie Avalon and Fabian being their top two acts.

Only three solo female artists had records during those years: Jodie Sands, Fran Lori, and Patty Brandon. Of those, Fran Lori sounds more like the person we hear singing with Frankie on “Why” (Chancellor 1045).

Chancellor even released records by Lori just before and soon after No. 1045. Those two are “Forgiveness” (1035) and “If You Only Knew” (1050). In fact, Fran was the only solo female on Chancellor from mid-1958 until early ’61.

Lori had the motive (to sing on an eventual No. 1 hit alongside a major pop star); the means (a sweet voice and no other appointments that day); and the opportunity (already a Chancellor artist with studio access).

Whether I’m right or wrong, just having this topic in print may inspire someone to contact me who knows for certain. If I do learn more, you’ll know about it right away.”

I agree 100 percent with Jerry’s assessment that the voice is that of Fran Lori. The voice, tone and pitch match her other recordings. However, to date there has been no definitive answer as to who the mystery singer is. It would seem logical just to ask Frankie Avalon and I really don’t know why nobody has done just that. So of course, I sent a direct email to Frankie Avalon asking for clarification and an update on Fran’s career. This was the response that I received from his son Frank Jr.:

“Hey Allen, I just asked Frankie those questions and he said he lost touch with her about 40 or 50 years ago and he said that he thinks that she might’ve been a background singer on the Perry Como show. I hope this helps good luck with your research. Take care and have a great new year.” The response seemed to indicate that her singing on the song “Why” was a tacit given.

I followed the Perry Como lead and found that Fran Lori was one of “Perry’s Girls” who sang along with him during his early TV days with Kraft Music Hall. Here is a Youtube video from May 31, 1961 that appears to feature Fran Lori singing with Perry Como. At time signature 1:29 that’s Fran on the lower right.

Fran Lori’s discography includes the following songs:

Who Are We To Say with Paul Carr (1957 Chancellor)

If You Only Knew / Will I Always Be Your Sweetheart  (1960 Chancellor)

Forgiveness ‎(7″ Promo) (1960 Chancellor)

The Young Cavaliero (Say Love Say) / A Teenage Prayer ‎(7″) (1961 Sunnybrook)

For The Love Of A Boy ‎(7″ Single) (1962 Sunnybrook)

I’m Gonna Study Jimmy (1963 Lennox)

My Sister And I (Love The Same Guy) / I Never Knew ‎(7″ Single, Promo) (1964 Lennox)

* Note: The song “Who Are We To Say” was used in the 1957 movie Jamboree which featured Paul Carr and Freda Holloway, using Connie Francis’s voice for Freda’s part. The 1957 song with Paul Carr, “Who Are We To Say” was recorded with Fran Lori. On November 11, 1957 both Fran Lori and Paul Carr appeared together on American Bandstand singing the same song. Paul Carr was born on February 1, 1934 and died on February 17, 2006.

“A Teenage Prayer” was rated 4 stars in the June 5, 1961 issue of Billboard as illustrated below.

The issue of Fran Lori not being credited on the release of “Why” can be explained in several ways. During those years, background singers were generally not credited on records unless they sang a complete duet with the major artist. In the case of “Why,” Fran Lori sang a very small part of the song. Additionally, people recording on the same label often lent a hand to others on the label where needed. This phenomena still exists today. Linda Ronstadt sang backup on several recordings of Neil Young and others without specific credits. Even I sang backup for friends and label associates on their recordings of the 1970s. Back then nobody was really overly hung-up on credits; it was just “helping out.” Everything considered, I would definitely include “Why” in Fran Lori’s discography.

Very little information can be found about Fran Lori’s life outside the music business. As I could not locate birth, marriage or death records for her, I suspected that Fran Lori was a stage name. I then scoured old newspaper and was able to find this article in the July 30, 1959 edition of the Patchogue Advance, the local newspaper Patchogue, New York. There, plain as day was her birth name, Frances Marcus.

Having discovered her birth name, I wanted to find out more about the person Frances Marcus. I would estimate her birth date to be between 1936 and 1941. Her mother was born in 1911 to parents William Marcus and Rebecca according to the 1920 and 1940 censuses. The two dates I have narrowed down for Frances’ birth are either October 5, 1939, January 1, 1941 or July 24, 1941. Records (or lack thereof) seem to indicate that her mother was not married at the time of Frances’ birth

Looking into her extended family I did locate the 1930 census record Bernard Marcus’ sister Sarah (Sadie) Diamond. She was born on November 6, 1909. This record indicated that Sadie’s father Joseph was born in Poland in 1887, spoke Yiddish, worked as a farmer and was Jewish. Her mother Annie Robinson was born in Mississippi in 1880. Sadie married Herman Berkowitz (born 1906) on July 7, 1930 in Patchogue, New York and had three sons between 1932 and 1936. This information was obtained from the April 29, 1940 census.

Finding further particulars for Frances Marcus proved very difficult. I could not locate marriage or death records for her under both her birth and stage names. The only record I found that makes any sense was a residence listing for a Frances “Fran” Marcus, born January 1. 1941 and living in Kenneth Square, Chester, Pennsylvania from 1991 to 2007. Yet, this seems a stretch but perhaps she reverted to her birth name after leaving the business. There is also a Frances Marcus listed as living in 13 July 2001 at Huntington, Suffolk, New York. Her birthdate was July 24, 1941. However, both of these assume that she never married and used her birth name. This leads me to believe her correct birth date was October 5, 1939. She would have been about 18 years old, perhaps a few months younger, when she recorded “Who Are We To Say” with Paul Carr in 1957.

This has been an exhausting research project but it has been fun as well. I believe people like Fran Lori deserve to be fully recognized for their talents and contributions to American music.

If you have any additional information regarding Fran Lori, please contact me through this blog.

Please follow this blog by clicking  follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

Did You Ever Have To Make Up Your Mind?

It’s a great line from the The Lovin’ Spoonful’s song of the same title. It’s kept me on the straight and narrow for years. Why? Because early on, I learned that you can’t have everything and that you need to constantly make decisions: Smart decisions that benefit your life and don’t destroy it. It seems simple enough yet there are millions of people who just can’t say ….”pick up on one and leave the other behind.” This includes everything from a spouse to a job to a way of living. It can’t all be done in a life time so some real critical thinking has to be employed and decisions have to be made straight away.

Here’s the complete lyrics written by John Sebastian:

Did You Ever Had To Make Up Your Mind?

Did you ever have to make up your mind?
And pick up on one and leave the other behind?
It’s not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Did you ever have to finally decide?
And say yes to one and let the other one ride?
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?

Sometimes there’s one with big blue eyes, cute as a bunny,
With hair down to here, and plenty of money,
And just when you think she’s that one in the world,
Your heart gets stolen by some mousy little girl,

And then you know you’d better make up your mind.
And pick up on one and leave the other behind.
It’s not often easy and not often kind.
Did you ever have to make up your mind?

Sometimes you really dig a girl the moment you kiss her,
And then you get distracted by her older sister.
When in walks her father and takes you in line,
And says, “Better go on home, son, and make up your mind.”

And then you bet you’d better finally decide.
And say yes to one and let the other one ride.
There’s so many changes and tears you must hide.
Did you ever have to finally decide?

Here’s the original mono recording:

Have You Ever Had To Make Up Your Mind? Well, have you?

Please follow this blog by clicking  follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

The Biggest Salmon

Years ago I lived in Eugene, Oregon and regularly fished for salmon with a fly rod. My choice then was a 9 ½ hand built specialty rod with an 8-weight line. It was often used with a weighted shooting head.

I fished most of the well-known rivers in Southern Oregon including the Rogue, the McKenzie, the Willamette, the Umpqua, the Smith and the Lake Creek. The latter was always my favorite as it was close to my house and had a decent run of fall Chinook salmon. Every year, when the first wooly caterpillars appeared in the first week of October, the show was on and I was one of the first on the stream.

At this point it would be worth noting that even in a good season, one or two landed Chinook constitutes a major feat. This is not like trout fishing where you might hook and release 20 fish a day. Chinook are hard to hook and even harder to land. Unlike a lively trout, Chinook tend to hug the bottom and the whole contest is much like a tug of war. Either the fisherman or his prey will eventually wear out. Sometimes the equipment can wear out as well. Many an expert fisherman has “blown up” his rod on a big Chinook.

One afternoon in 1995, I took off for Lake Creek with the faint hope of a salmon. I’d already landed two nice fish that season: A 26-pound hen and a 30 pound buck. I felt I’d probably hit my quota but I forged into the water anyway. My traditional spot at Indiola was full of fishermen so I moved a mile or so up stream where there is a long series of slots. I waded in and started plying my skills.

After about twenty minutes, I felt that maybe I’d gotten hung-up on the bottom. I did a hook set just to be sure. Then the line started peeling off my reel like a buzz saw. I didn’t see the fish as he screamed upstream but I knew it was a big one.

The big buck played me up into the next hole and I followed like a child trying to keep enough brake on him to slow him down. Every time I got a few yards of line on him, he would turn toward me and then suddenly upstream again. I followed into the second hole. By this time, some 15 minutes had passed and I was tiring out but not the salmon. This was surely the biggest salmon I’d ever hooked so I was intent on keeping him on and landing him.

Another 15 minutes passed as we moved together into the third hole upstream. I was all wet at this point as I had to wade to my arm pits at several points. I finally made it into some shallower water and started to play the boy for real. There is something exhilarating and scary about seeing half your line sail off your reel in just a couple of runs. Finally, he turned downstream toward me and I thought I just might have a chance. I waded to the left side of the stream and carefully took up line with every step. I slid on my tailing glove and played the fish closer to me. Now I could finally see him. He was huge!

Almost an hour had gone by from the time I hooked this salmon. He was tired out and I was even worse off. I went to tail him but saw instantly that my hand wouldn’t come close to getting a grasp on him. In desperation, I nudged him onto the left bank. I then rushed him and scooped him to shore. I had a large fish scale with me and weighed him – 61 pounds! That was well over any record for me.

Then I did what I always did. I revived this monster and released him into Lake Creek to continue his journey upstream.

PS – As I released this Chinook, a local fellow rushed down from the road above where he’d been watching me and bawled me out for letting the fish go. He called me all sorts of names and said that to spend an hour playing a fish just to release just proved I was a “dumb ass.” I just smiled and said, “When you get one on this big, you can do whatever you like.”

This and other stories can be found in my book, The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Fishing.

Please follow this blog by clicking follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3

Stock Fences

I learned a lot about stock fences when I was a young child. They were usually barbed wire fences and gates that kept cattle in one pasture or another. They dotted the landscape of every place that we seemed to fish in California, Montana and Wyoming.

Early in my youth, I became acquainted with barbed wire fences and how to cross them safely. In the early 1950’s we fished on the Upper Owens River in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Any given day required my father and me to cross 4 to 6 fences. The first thing I learned was to respect the property owner’s fence and not to damage it. Most ranchers will allow passage through their fences but obviously they don’t want their fences damaged. The common practice was to gently step down on the lowest string of barbed wire and pull up on the next highest string to allow the body to pass through. This almost always worked. However, occasionally a barb would catch your clothing and stop you in the midst of this maneuver. I became very expert at this kind of fence crossing and had very few torn shirts to prove otherwise.

The other fence we regularly encountered was the stock fence gate. These gates were put across dirt roads but were movable to allow passage. The photo above illustrates one such gate found in Wyoming in the 1960’s. There was usually a wire loop that fitted over the end post of the barbed wire gate. A little effort released the loop. The car was then driven ahead and the fence gate was put back the way it was found. The latter was almost always my job when I was fishing with my father..

I learned all the techniques when I was a young child. Later in life I applied them regularly with my new family. My wife learned the routine well as did my dog. The only difficulty was swinging a 9 foot fly rod through the fence on your way through. The road gates were easy but required me to stop, undo the fence, drive through, stop again and re-loop the fence post as I was the only one with that golden experience..

As an aside, in the early 1970’s I visited my old haunts on the Owens River. The previous winter had been long with heavy snow. When I arrived at the Long Ears Ranch, my car immediately became bogged down in the wet pasture. I tried digging the rear wheels out to no avail. I decided that I needed to put wood under the wheels. After trying sage brush, I was convinced that I needed solid pieces of wood. There was none to be found.

Finally I spied a nearby fence. I disassembled one post and used it under the drive wheel to get my car unstuck. But remember what I said about respect for the property owner’s fence? Yep, you guessed it. I spent another hour and a half replacing the post that I had borrowed and making the needed barbed wire connections.

Years later, I was fishing on Oregon’s McKenzie River near the town of Eugene. It was a damp rainy day. I came upon a stock fence and followed the steps I had learned many decades ago. However when I put my left hand on that second string of wire after stepping on the bottom string, I noticed that my hand was jumping up and down. I paused and looked at it closely. It looked like all the muscles in the hand were jerking up and down like mini convulsions. Finally it dawned on me that the fence was electrified. Duh!

Fences: They’re there and you can usually cross them if you have permission but be careful. A hand on barbed wire or an electrical fence can be an eye opener.

Photo: My father Gene Rizzi opening a stock fence gate in Wyoming circa 1960.

Please follow this blog by clicking follow below. Your comments are always welcome.

Read author Allen E. Rizzi’s latest books available at

Read author Allen E Rizzi 3