of the nature of the subject, a significant chapter of Old West history - bloody
livestock injuries - is often ignored or forgotten. However, it did happen, and
here is the story.
Beginning with the invention of barbed
wire in the early 1870s and the consequent manufacture and installation of
across the land, a serious adjustment period occurred as the animals met and tested
the prickly barrier for the first time.
Injury, often serious, occurred
as pets, valuable livestock, a few humans and the family milk cow came in contact
with the sharp points. Livestock owners protested so loud about the injuries that
the future manufacture of the product was placed in jeopardy. But the need to
protect growing crops and private property was much greater, so the manufacture
of barbed wire continued to increase.
interest, the livestock learned quickly to stay away from the wire. Manufacturers
began making more humane wires with shorter, duller points, some of which turned
on the wire when touched by the hides of the animals. The evolution of barbed
wire had begun. These injuries also spawned a little-known business that endured
for more than 25 years wherever there were animals and fences.
now, this was during the horsepower age and at a time with few educated veterinarians
around. The chore of tending the injuries fell to the local community's horse
Most of these individuals loved animals and had a way with stock,
and some had remedies handed down from their elders. The financial rewards were
basic treatment of a wire cut was to stop the bleeding and clean, disinfect and
coat it with oil to keep the wound supple yet smelling strong enough to keep flies
away to prevent screw worms. To produce this evil-smelling but healing potion
often led to some fame and a small fortune. Every horse doctor had his "secret
liniment" that he bragged "brought miraculous healing."
Many of these
more enterprising individuals developed, manufactured and sold their secret potions
to the public much like the old-time medicine show man peddled his "miracle tonics"
to the public while entertaining with some foot-patting music.
specially made manufactured bottles too expensive, the horse doctors sent young
boys to scavenge empty bottles from town and farm dumps, paying a penny a bottle
for the right size containers. Since all bottles of the time were stoppered with
corks, they would merely clean, fill, add a stopper and label, and a salable product
was born. These products included liniments, oils, salves, balms and healing powders.
This is known as the Wire Cut Medicine Era.
Created during the
Wire Cut Medicine Era, modern collectors have catalogued more than 150 brands
and containers with labels or embossed names. Most say, "for barb wire cuts and
scratches." Some even say "for man or beast."
By 1895, the era ended as
livestock learned to stay away from barbed-wire fences.
The old-time horse
doctors died off and were replaced by licensed veterinarians with patented, government-
Trew - July
5, 2011 column
Trew is a freelance writer and retired rancher. He can be reached at 806-779-3164,
by mail at Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002, or by email at trewblue@centra media.net.
For books see delberttrew.com. His column appears weekly.
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