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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Barbed wire
called 'Devil's Rope' for a reason

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
During the early 1880s, Jacob and Warren M. Brinkerhoff invented and patented 13 varieties of a galvanized ribbon barbed wire with saber-type points. Most Panhandle historians agree this Brinkerhoff ribbon was the most famous barbed wire in Panhandle history as the XIT Ranch used some 6,000 miles of the invention to fence their vast grasslands.

Being a wire collector, I purchased several rolls of Brinkerhoff for various reasons. The largest group of rolls came from an old-time farmer in the Channing area whose grandfather had rolled up the wire after purchasing land from the XIT Land Company when they began offering their best farming acreage for sale.

A recent construction project here on the Trew Ranch involved fencing a few acres surrounding a new fishing and camping site. For nostalgic reasons, I had the inspiration to build a 100-yard stretch of the new fence using the old XIT ribbon wire. It just might be the only "new " section of fence in the Panhandle using the old Brinkerhoff wire now older than 100 years.

This turned out to be a new learning experience for me in spite of a lifetime of working on barbed-wire fences. Before I finished this section of fence, I determined the Brinkerhoff wire was alive and working diligently to thwart every move I made. After I finished the section of fence, I am convinced history should be revised and rewritten.

For example, history states, "Injury to both humans and livestock by vicious barbed wire suggest this invention is the work of the devil. Hence the nickname given to early barbed wire was the Devil's Rope."

After working with Brinkerhoff ribbon wire, I believe the quote was misstated. The statement should read, "This #*+@**##XX blankety-blank abomination is the revenge of progress and any landowner who buys it should go straight to the devil."

I found it is next to impossible to roll or unroll Brinkerhoff as every saber tooth entangles with the next barb along every foot of length. The points are sharp and the wire stiff enough to twist and turn striking like a rattlesnake puncturing the thickest leather gloves. Since the ribbon is flat and the tensile so strong it makes for difficult splicing. If bent sharply, the wire breaks. No matter the design of the cutting tool, the flat ribbon is hard to cut.
McLean TX - Devil's Rope Museum, Route66
Photo Courtesy Rick Vanderpool, 2010
Devil's Rope Museum
A tribute to barbed wire
Events in Panhandle history such as the Old Tascosa Cowboy Strike is now easier to understand as they were probably being forced to install Brinkerhoff on new ranch fencing. The rules of conduct adopted by the XIT Ranch preventing foul language, fights and the consumption of alcoholic spirits were probably the result of listening to the bunk house conversations after a hard day's work installing Brinkerhoff ribbon fencing.

There is little doubt the extremely high consumption of liquor at Old Tascosa and along the Cimarron Strip saloons during this period could be attributed to fencing crews working with Brinkerhoff wire. I hereby respectfully suggest that history be revised and rewritten with the name of the Devil's Rope being changed to "#*+@**##XX blankety-blank Brinkerhoff Ribbon wire."

Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew" December 30, 2008 Column
E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

See
Devil's Rope Museum
Related Topics: Ranching
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