At 19, Jerry Mellow was mending fences as a ranch hand for his parents' dairy farm.
Fifty-three years later, and Mellow hasn't stopped his fence work. His business, Tahoe Fence Co., is nearing the 40-year mark and he's been at it long enough to pass the day-to-day operations to two of his sons.
"I came here 47 years ago and I'm a rancher and dairyman, so I've built fences all of my life," Mellow said.
He had moved to the Carson area at 19, tending bar and driving a cab for another family member after his parents died. But he soon put his fencing skills to work for another company before setting out to start what would become a family business, complete with a granddaughter milling about the office one recent morning.
They make fences of metal, PVC and wood at their Mound House lot, which Mellow proudly describes as a clean location with an at-home vibe. His on-site garden of tomatoes, gourds and sunflowers are fenced in with a variety of styles they use for displays.
"(The business has) been real good to us," he said. "I have to give a lot of credit to our sons."
One son, vice president Chad Mellow, said his time with the business started almost 35 years ago, when his dad would bring him along to do estimates at 5 or 6 years old. Then, at 14, Chad Mellow started digging fencepost holes, which eventually helped him to pay for college.
"Next thing I know, I'm doing estimates and running crews," Chad Mellow said. "Before you
know it, you're doing it for 10, 12 years."
He counts his official time with the business at 26 years, and one that has helped the family bond.
"It's nice to have something you build together, as a group," he said.
They also donate leftover building materials to local families, some of whom rely on the old wooden planks as their main source of winter heating, Jerry Mellow said. The business also donates temporary panels to schools, fire departments, ice rinks and more.
Jerry Mellow, being a product of a solid family and education himself, said he and his family also support their workers in obtaining more and better education. Sounding like a proud father, he boasts of former employees becoming engineers, veterinarians, attorneys, businessmen and paramedics.
"My wife and I are big supporters of education," he said. "If they take a course that helps the business, we pay for it."
He said his wife even helped to start the nursing program at Western Nevada College.
Building fences is a life that suits Mellow well enough that he still comes in most mornings, despite his 72 years and capable sons and employees.
"It's been a good life," he said. "I've met a lot of neat people."