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From the movie "Devil's Doorway" (1950)

During the movie, the Indian called Lance and his family and friends try to keep his land, but the homestead law gives other people right to his land, so they eventually attack Lance. Earlier Lance applied to a lady lawyer Orrie. She gets some feeling for Lance. In the end of the movie, when the US Cavalry arrives to handle the situation, Orrie asks the Commanding Officer of the clavary to let her go and talk to Lance. There goes a conversation between Orrie and Lance:

Orrie: The women and children will be dead, too, because of you!

Lance: It's good to have advice. It's just what I needed. Especially now. Nothing an Indian needs like a speech from a lawyer telling him to give up. Well, now you made it. Your conscience is clear.

Orrie: It's much more than conscience, Lance. And it's more than the women and children.

Lance: If you're trying to say it's feeling for me, then I don't believe you. The color of my hide means just as much to you as it does to them out there. If you've found out that I can be lonely for a woman like any other man, you stay on the safe side of the fence.

This last line doesn't make any sense to me. There isn't any fence in the movie. I would suppose it's an idiom, which means the same thing as "be on the safe side" does, but in this case the line still wouldn't make sense.

  • 2
    It is an idiom. The safe side of the fence is the side not on the side where the danger is. If there's a bucking bronco in a corral, the safe side of the fence is outside the corral. The "danger" here is understood to be racial in nature, inter-racial relations being fraught with risk for both parties (especially in the 1950s and post Civil War, the film's setting). – Tᴚoɯɐuo Aug 28 '17 at 20:25
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo why not submit that as an answer – Broklynite Aug 28 '17 at 22:22
  • @Broklynite if you think this is a sufficient explanation, it's perfectly acceptable to copy it and submit it as an answer yourself (although it's probably good manners to credit the source). I sometimes answer in comments when I feel like responding but don't have the time (or sometimes the inclination) to write up what I consider a "complete" answer. But I have no problem with someone else doing so. – Andrew Aug 28 '17 at 22:32
  • There’s a difference. To “be on the safe side” just means to be cautious. The use of an idiom about a “side of the fence” implies that there is a dispute and one must choose which of the rival groups to support. – smatterer Aug 29 '17 at 5:18

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