Wednesday, October 02, 2019

The Devils Ropes

Barbed wire consumed by tree, and tree consumed by poison ivy.

In the Eastern United States, where hedge rows are not layed, as they are in Great Britain, barbed wire proved as useful as it was in the West.

Hedges in the Eastern U.S. are little more than strips of uncut forest and secondary growth, often dominated by rapidly-growing weedy trees, such as black cherry, black locust, and black walnut. These trees shade thin tangles of poke berry and wild grape, multiflora rose, kudzu, and honeysuckle. The result is not substantial enough to keep livestock out of crops.

Prior to barbed wired, farmers had to construct stone walls or erect split rail or plank fencing. These kinds of fencing are expensive and enormously labor- and material-intensive, and they also require a lot of maintenance.

With the invention of barbed wire, however, a farmer could simply stretch wire from tree to tree or post to post. The savings, in time and money, was enormous. Maintenance was virtually eliminated, as galvanized wire does not rust, rot, burn, need paint, or fall apart from frost heaving.

The ease of fence construction after the invention of barbed wire meant that new fences lines were easily created. Large farms that had once been open fields were now cut and carved with posts and barbed wire. Along these fence lines weedy strips soon took hold. Over time, many of these weedy strips have been colonized by small trees, bushes and vines, and in many instances full hedgerows have developed, almost always attended by population of groundhogs, fox, raccoon and possum.

Truly, barbed wire is the "Devils' Rope," and yet it is also part of the story of working terriers in America, for barbed wire has created and protected much of the hedgerow habitat where so much of our quarry dens.

If you work terriers in the Eastern United States, you will eventually find your yourself crawling over and under barbed wire. The dogs themselves may occasionally get ripped running over it, and most folks eventually lose the bottom out of one seat of pants or another.

In the end, however, there is very little doubt that without barbed wire we would not have the quality of terrier work we have today.

And so next time we are in a jungle of thick hedge and the dog has just slipped into a hole under a jumble of broken down barbed wire fencing, let us remember that the fence is more than an obstruction -- it is construction that is vital to the habitat we hunt. Barbed wire is our friend.


Edze said...

Barbed wire is not my friend. But I live in Iceland, and we don't have hedges.
Old not maintained barbed wire fences are dangerous, especially for sheep, but also for horses. I am glad they are not very popular anymore for new fences, and there is taken action to oblige land owners to clear land of old barbed wire.

Karen Carroll said...

Falconers as a rule detest dangerous barb wire. Or any wire strung fencing. Many a hawk has been injured, crippled or killed by the stuff. Owls get hung up on it at night. I really feel it be mandatory that it should be marked somehow. One falconer out west actually uses empty soda cans. He folds then crushes the cans on the wire, marking it for wildlife. it is a cheap way to make it safer for all all wildlife. Both diurnal and nocturnal.