Digging post holes by hand was hard workby
the hundreds of jobs associated with farming and ranching, digging postholes by
hand is by far my least favorite. Today, most postholes are dug by equipment powered
by tractors, motors and hydraulics. Iron tee posts driven into the ground have
pretty well replaced the need for digging post holes. But not so long ago all
postholes were dug by hand with a pair of diggers. |
Of interest is the
fact the Devil's Rope Museum
in McLean has approximately
60 patented post hole diggers on display all showing different designs and mechanisms
to make the job easier. I can guarantee a long hot day on a pair of diggers in
hard dry ground will conjure up many ideas to make the dreaded job less work.
the first post-hole-digger-haters were the old dyed-in-the-wool cowboys who believed
any work not carried out on the back of a horse was a sin, an embarrassment and
beneath their dignity. If the truth were known, the famous "Cowboy Strike" carried
out at Old Tascosa was
probably as much in protest of building barbed
wire fences as demanding higher wages and better working conditions on the
The new-fangled barbed wire fences of the Old West were a joke
at first. When finally accepted as a legitimate ranch improvement it was no easy
chore to construct. First, trying to establish the correct legal boundary before
building was almost impossible due to the many incorrect early day surveying methods.
Once surveyed and staked someone had to spend weeks with an axe and saw in a cedar
canyon somewhere cutting fence posts and hauling them to the site.
the rolls of wire and kegs of staples had to be ordered, delivered and picked
up at either the Trinidad, Colorado or Dodge City, Kansas railheads and hauled
to the fence location. During these efforts someone had to dig the post holes,
usually about 30 feet apart at that time, insert the posts and tamp them tight.
Then came the unpleasant job of unrolling the prickly cable (often called much
worse names), stretching it tight and stapling to the posts before the fence was
cow-proof. It was a hard dreary job every step of the way.
fence building "true" story comes from the Dodge City Times, published each Saturday
from 1877 to 1881, then each Thursday afterward until 1885. All issues are on
file in the University of Kansas archives.
On June 29,1882 an article
appeared in the paper stating, "The fence building crew of Lester, Williamson,
Duke, Fletcher and Cooper arrived in Dodge City for some rest and recreation.
They are here awaiting fencing supplies after digging 75 miles of postholes. They
came in looking mighty rusty." Can you imagine digging 75 miles of postholes?
All by hand! I'll bet they looked rusty!
"It's All Trew" September
Delbert 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 e-mail
at email@example.com. For books see DelbertTrew.com. His column appears