The Devil’s Rope

I grew up in the country. There were farms everywhere, and one thing I just took for granted was the presence of barbed wire everywhere. It kept cattle out of the corn and potatoes on my uncle’s farm, barbed wire separated the new born sheep and ewes from the rest of the flock on my neighbor’s farm, and it protected me from being eaten alive by my aunt’s huge mean dog.

Although it was everywhere I never understood the cultural importance of the stuff until much later. I never knew this stuff that amounted to a minor annoyance when I was trying to feed apples to the donkey near my grandparents’ house had changed the entire country. Barbed wire was a miracle for some people and a curse for others. A war was fought over its use and then a war was fought using it as a weapon.

This podcast will fill you in on the details (click on the listen button). Listen to it and answer the questions below.




1. In what ways did barbed wire change the American West?

2. How is the idea of Manifest Destiny linked to the invention of barbed wire and the settling of the west?

3. What conflicts centered around fences and the uses of land in the west?

4. How was barbed wire used after the West is finally settled?

5. If you saw barbed wire in a painting or other piece of art what might it symbolize?


Answers to these questions should be written on a separate sheet of paper and turned in when I return on Monday.

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