Barbed wire tamed the West.
That old familiar saying certainly had truth to it. Before the twisted, prickly wire’s invention, cattle generally had free roam of the range. They went wherever they pleased, and unless clearly branded, were often free for the claiming.
Whoever said the cattle were theirs didn’t have much ground to stand on; it was one man’s word against another. No law could legitimately determine ownership, though some cases were settled in courts. Still, a few disputes were finalized by use of a firearm.
Barbed wire stopped straying cattle, allowing owners to more closely monitor inventories. It was not readily accepted, however, as range wars became quite common. Cowboys didn’t take kindly to being told where their cattle could graze. History again indicates that deadly actions were taken in pursuit of settlement.
Winner was barbed wire, and it is still the rule of the land in keeping livestock where they’re intended to be most of the time. Hard to believe that in these days of so many modern inventions nothing has been found that is as economically efficient as a barbed wire fence to confine livestock in large open areas of grassland.
Construction of barbed wire fences takes many forms, and certain builders have a knack that makes it almost impassable, indestructible and long-lived. Like with anything, others take the fast, lick-and-a-promise procedure with low-cost design, but tempting for trespassing by even the gentlest old milk cow, let alone a renegade bull.
Even the best fence has limited longevity, but some well over a half century in use still serve their purpose, at least in limited requirement. Fence building is one of those things we’ve been called to do many times, despite our lack of appreciation for the work. Ours serve their purpose, as long as the contained don’t want out too bad.
Uncle Don was a coyote hunter, and when his dogs jumped their prey, there wasn’t a fence in the county that could stop his Jeep in their pursuit. Landowners could never understand how their tight fence became loose, but somehow Don pulled the posts, wire intact, drove over the flattened fence, set it back up and took off lickity cut.
Dad always worried about turning horses out in a pasture with old, loose barbed wire, in fright they would get hurt. Barbed wire can cut animals severely if they get entangled and fight it, but generally, horses stay away from barbed wire, not even wanting to cross it when asked. Those that might get caught often don’t move until they’re helped out.
A reminder is given in Job 19:8:”He hath fenced up my way that I cannot pass, and he hath set darkness in my paths.” Yet, reprieve comes in Jeremiah 33:3: “Call and I will show you great and mighty things, fenced in and hidden, which you do not know.”