Harrisburg fence made from found objects a local landmark

Friday, July 18, 2014 | 6:00 a.m. CDT; updated 9:52 a.m. CDT, Friday, July 18, 2014
Terry McBride's fence in Harrisburg has become a landmark because of the unique items he has added to it. He says people stop to take pictures and ask questions about it.

HARRISBURG — When Terry McBride bought a farmhouse near Harrisburg in 1999, he inherited not just an old building but a vast collection of curious items as well.

The previous owners left hundreds of objects scattered around the yard, the house and the barn — piles of glass, aluminum cans, appliances and broken pieces of unidentifiable equipment.

"There were more stoves and fridges lined up in the yard than you would see at Sears," McBride said. "The yard was an eyesore."

He recycled what he could and saved the few valuables he found among the discards.

The rest of the items lay neglected until 2003, when inspiration struck. McBride already had a 200-foot fence along the edge of his property, and he decided to string random objects on the fence wire, like ornaments on a Christmas tree.

The fence has become a local landmark on Route J. McBride says drivers will slow down, study it, stop and take photographs, even knock on his door to ask questions.

"People ask about it as the house with the junk on the fence," he said.

He agrees that a lot of it is junk, but his preferred expression is "found objects." He can tell you stories about many of them.

Sun-bleached animal skulls, probably from bulls and cows, straddle the fence posts, alongside old paintbrushes, rakes, hubcaps, teacups, toys, ladles, fan blades, cooking pots and other flotsam.

A broken ceramic chicken head was a casualty of a fire at McBride's mother's home in 2007.

McBride found a Bert and Ernie figurine floating in the creek behind his house, as well as random pieces of metal and glass bottles.

A bicycle frame came from a Gitane that McBride bought in 1978 and rode on a month-long trip from Portland to Los Angeles in 1980. The bike made a second trip from Seattle to Kansas City in 1981 before McBride crashed it into a parked car.

"I hung the stuff on the fence to make the kids on the school bus laugh," McBride said. "And they do. A lot of the kids don't remember when the fence didn’t exist."

Inside the house, he stores more of his favorite items in boxes, with a few on display and others waiting for space in renovated rooms.

He has a dresser drawer full of Native American arrowheads he finds washed up in the creek, more than 200 Missouri license plates dating back to 1924 are scattered around the place.

McBride keeps glass medicine bottles from the 1900s in his bathroom. A Hopalong Cassidy dinner plate from 1950's TV Western hangs on the wall leading up to the staircase.

"I have too much stuff," he said. "Some of the good stuff was never even on the fence."

McBride grew up down the road from the farmhouse in Harrisburg, attended Harrisburg High School and graduated from MU with degrees in geography and cartography.

He has been renovating the house, which is 171 years old, for the last 15 years. McBride calls it "The Hazard House" after Mait and Edna Hazard, who lived there for 85 years. Mait was born in the house, he said.

McBride has replaced the siding, rebuilt the screened-in porch, repainted the walls, fixed the roof and strengthened the floors and the foundation.

He's added three rooms and a basement to the house since purchasing it — a bedroom, living-kitchen area and a bathroom. Two rooms downstairs, the foyer and the upstairs hallway are stripped for later rehab. 

McBride fills each room with mid-century furniture he’s collected from flea markets in Kansas City and St. Louis. He loves mid-century furniture for the same reason he loves the work of British painter and photographer David Hockney — bright colors.

A Hockney poster hangs on a wall in his living room with landscape photos McBride took on vacations in Seattle, Crater Lake National Park and other destinations. 

"It’s what I grew up around, so I'm used to it, McBride said. "Collecting it is entertainment for me, too."

Supervising editor is Jeanne Abbott.

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