It’s as much to keep folks out as it is to keep animals in. That’s how this weird-looking wire twisted its way into America’s story.
Barbed wire fences became the unintended icon of Manifest Destiny, establishing clear boundaries around a landowner’s perimeters, and preventing passage via shortest distance for cattle herders of the time. Native Americans coined it “Devil’s Rope” because it often ensnared wild buffalo who then either died of starvation or infection, rendering them relatively useless to a people who committed to using every part of any bison they killed. Upgrades and evolutions have made barbed wire strong, sustainable, and relatively safe while still serving its purpose.
Technically, it’s named “barbed wire” for its signature spiked barbs that transformed a wire fence from a feat of strength to a force to be reckoned with, although almost all of us were into our pre-teen years before we learned that, because no matter what region of Texas twang you grew up with, it was pronounced “bobwire”.
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