Love, Barbed Wire, and other Detritus
I have waxed poetic about how I love living on our “new” old ranch. The history that we have been told about, the little peeks of that history found in and around the house, and the general feeling that the place has been lived in.
Some of that history is not so neat and clean.
We have spent 2 years working to clean the place up from 110 years of use. Previous occupants were not always so shiny about where they decided to dump stuff.
We have 2 areas in the pasture that served as house dump. We have found about a few hundred pounds of old rusted cans of unknown origin. Some of it we can figure out based on shape, such as an old maple syrup can in the shape of a log cabin, or an old oil can with the church key perforations in the top. Chunks of cable wire, an old refrigerator prob from the early 1940’s, and a furnace. Broken dishes and tea cups, bones, a toilet, and other mysterious unknown bits.
We found one area next to our barn where they apparently decided to bury what seem like 100 pounds of nails. These suckers have taken out 3 tractor tires, 2 off-road vehicle tires and one truck tire. They morph out of the ground constantly. I pick up anywhere between 10-50 nails a week. Rain seems to make them procreate.
One trick we found they used in the past was to put rolled up barbed wire and hang on tree limbs. Some of it has grown into the tree itself. We also have found horse shoes on tree limbs and the business end of a pitchfork is dangling in perpetuity.
It’s like an archeological excavation to get it cleaned up.
We found a scrap hauler and, to date, he has removed 5 trailer loads of stuff, and we have at least another 2 ready for him to take now.
This brings me to the crux of the post. Barbed wire.
The wire that shaped the west.
The wire that kept cows out of farmer’s fields. The wire that kept the cattle barons from free ranging their cows. The wire that, quite frankly, got people and animals killed during the settlement of the west.
Cattle barons were not quite so pleased when homesteaders and crop farmers moved into their fiefdom. There were literal wars over the stuff. One was called the “Fence cutting war” in eastern Wyoming, Colorado, Texas and New Mexico in 1880’s. Cattle barons started to fence off their own private land, as well as open range public land and water to keep the small ranchers and homesteaders off of it. Needless to say that did not go over so very well and the cutting of fences commenced. They attribute 4 deaths, including a Texas ranger, to this war, and they estimated $20 million in damages in 1883 alone.
Did you know there is a museum dedicated to barbed wire in Kansas?
Frankly, I never did like the stuff, especially when it comes to sheep. Sheep tend to not be really big on testing fences. They don’t tend to try to find holes to escape thru thankfully. Yes, there are exceptions to that rule. For the most part, sheep are pretty happy to stay where they are put.
One of the reasons we are trying to clean up the property is because of the sheep. Hidden dangers abound!!
Little Miss Gwen found one of those hidden dangers that we had not found yet. She was grazing along with her mom, Aife, her siblings and the rest of the flock, when she came across an old rusted up bunch of barbed wire hidden under a tree. She got her little self tangled up in the chunk of wire. And before you say it, I do understand that them wearing coats can contribute to them getting hung up.
We are not sure how long she was trapped. I am grateful that she was smart enough to not keep struggling to extricate herself from the mess and to just lay waiting for us to find her. I am also grateful that her mom was so insistent in calling for her.
We got her untangled and took her to the barn for some doctoring. I didn’t find any big cuts, however she did have the wire jammed up between the toes of one back foot and she has a bit of a limp at the moment from it. She is eating, drinking, and very alert. Once I'm sure she won't bloat after laying on her side for a while, she will go back out with the rest of the flock.
The coat was sacrificed to the barbed wire Gods.
The pic is the wire we found hidden, along with a piece of her coat and a few strands of her wool still attached.
So, we spent several hours this morning driving around once again searching for more detritus and hidden dangers. I suspect this will be an ongoing duty given to us by 110 years of living.
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