Tuesday, January 8, 2019


By Christi Corbett

When it comes to settling the American west, many images come to mind: teams of oxen pulling overloaded Conestoga wagons across dusty plains. Tattered wagon covers flapping in the wind. Horses—ridden by rough men barking out orders—trotting alongside wagon trains. Weary travelers depending on a seasoned trail guide who used landmarks and stars in the sky to lead his charges to a new life. The bravest of men, women, and children traveling thousands of miles across the country, and then spreading out across a new land.

Cowboy hats and log cabins. Gunslingers and outlaws. Campfires, canteens, and coffee. Buffalos and barbed wire.

Wait, barbed wire?

Yes, barbed wire. It’s not as well-known as everything I listed above, but as I learned a few years ago, barbed wire was vital to the settling of the American west.

My interest in the subject started during a visit to the Applegate Pioneer Museum in my small town of Veneta, Oregon. The place is crammed with all sorts of displays from pioneer days, so I made my way slowly through them all, happily inspecting artifacts from years gone by.

Then, in a dark room at the back of the building, crowded between other bits of pioneer memorabilia, I discovered a dusty picture frame. Inside was a display of several lengths and types of barbed wire.

A few of the many types
of barbed wire

At first, I wondered what sharp pieces of wire had to do with taming the west. Then, I went home and did some research.

*Settlers in the prairie areas needed a cheap, reliable way to keep their animals in, and predators out. Fences made of barbed wire solved the problem of lack of local wood. 

*Barbed wire outraged both cowboys and Native Americans, earning it the nickname the “Devil’s Rope”.

*Gunfights, and even deaths, resulted from large gangs of masked men participating in “fence-cutting wars”.

*In 1880, one barbed wire factory produced enough wire to surround the earth ten times.

Nowadays, inventive repurposing of barbed wire is happening. A glance through Etsy or Pinterest can give plenty of ideas and examples of “artsy” ways to use or display barbed wire.

Thanks for reading!

More about Christi

Christi Corbett had an early love for the written word. As a child she could often be seen leaving the library with a stack of books so tall she used her chin to balance them in her arms.

Over the years she’s put her love of writing to good use; in addition to writing over three hundred television commercials, she earned the position as head writer for a weekly television show. She left her television career when she and her husband found out they were expecting twins, but she couldn’t leave writing altogether.

She’s now an award-winning author, writing stories of brave men and spirited women settling the American west. 

Connect with Christi:
Email at christicorbett@gmail.com
Facebook at Christi Corbett-Author
Twitter at @ChristiCorbett
Instagram at @ChristiCorbett

1 comment:

  1. I love pioneer museums. I've seen some scary looking barbed wire samples. Or, as it's called in Texas, "bob wire". I wonder how many types of barbed wire there are? Nice post, Christi.


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