Stories from the Stringam Family Ranches of Southern Alberta

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Daughter of Ishmael by Diane Stringam Tolley

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by Diane Stringam Tolley

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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

And the Barbed Wire Wins. Again.

Barbed-wire. The Devil's Rope. It all looks so innocent . . .
By the early 1870's, smooth wire fences were fast being replaced by the new, and far more formidable and efficient - barbed-wire.
Now, domestic (and no few wild) animals could be effectively contained.
Wars were fought by stock owners and free-range enthusiasts over this new invention and its perceived advantages and disadvantages. And no few lives lost.
With the ending of the hostilities, barbed-wire became the accepted medium for fencing in the ranching and farming world.
Enough background . .

The Stringam ranch was large.
Really large.
And, to keep its inmates (the cattle, I mean) controlled, it was fenced with miles (and miles) of strands of barbed-wire.
Wire that had to be strung, stretched, looped, stapled, fastened, weighted and maintained.
And maintained. And maint . . . never mind . . .
And all of this work had to be accomplished by weak, easily wounded human beings.
You can imagine the damage that two to four sharp points of wire, created to discourage even the most thick-skinned cow, could do so soft, very-not-tough skin.
I can count 13 scars on one finger alone.
Thank goodness for heavy, leather gloves and even heavier moosehide chaps.
Over the years, we thin-skinned humans had many differences of opinion with the barbed-wire which stretched across the ranch. Most trivial, requiring a Band-Aid or nothing at all.
But a few, fairly serious . . .
Once, while my Dad and brother, George were stringing wire (A complicated procedure which required the paying out of four strings of wire from an apparatus on the back of the truck), Dad hit a bump.
George was dumped into the tangle of wire, resulting in multiple deep cuts and scrapes to his hands and arms.
Not good.
Or pleasant.
Band-Aids wouldn't do for that mishap.
He had to be sewn back together. Like a quilt.
Only not as warm and cuddly.
But at least it was a mishap that could only be considered an accident.
My run-in with 'The Devil's Rope', could easily have been prevented.
If I'd been smarter.
Like most of my calamities . . .
I'd been out visiting the horses and was heading home.
There was a fence in the way.
Now a normal person would have employed the usual method for getting past a barbed-wire fence. Climb under or through. Climb up a post. Find a gate.
But not me. I was determined to simply climb over.
Now, I should mention here that climbing over a barbed-wire fence is possible.
Just not very smart. And certainly not simple.
You have to do it carefully. Step on the bottom wire and bend the top wire down. Then lift your leg gingerly over the top wire and step to the ground. Then swing the other leg after the first.
Easy peasy.
As long as nothing gets caught. (Pant legs or crotches come to mind.) And as long as you can keep your balance.
I was only wearing a pair of shorts, so getting a pant leg caught wasn't even a consideration.
It never occurred to me that I should watch out for my actual . . . leg.
The barbs entered my skin at mid thigh, and at the apex of my swing over the fence.
Ouch.
I lost my balance and fell over the fence.
Worse.
The barbs raked two grooves down the entire length of my leg.
Impressive.
The good news? I was over the fence.
The bad news? I now sported two 18 inch furrows from mid thigh to mid calf on the inside of my right leg.
Hmmm.
I got to my feet and looked around.
Good. Mom and Dad were away on a Hereford Tour. And no one had seen my folly.
I limped quickly to the house and made use of the first-aid kit that Mom always kept just inside the back door.
Smart woman, my Mom.
Then I stared at my injury. Visions of the rows and rows of stitches it had taken to sew my brother closed floated through my mind.
In Technicolor.
I definitely didn't want that.
But no Band-Aid could possibly cover this wound.
Finally, I twisted a clean cloth around my leg.
Then, belatedly, put on a pair of jeans.
Perfect.
A few days later, when my parents returned, Mom instantly noted my limp.
And made me show her my injury.
And then hauled me in to the doctor.
By that point, stitches couldn't have done any good. The doctor merely pasted my leg with goop. Applied some gi-normous bandages, and gave me a shot.
All better.
I still have the scars.
They remind me that, in a difference of opinion between me and barbed-wire, the wire is always going to win.
And that, if in doubt, always, always wear jeans.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Diane:

    Delightful "story" but one I can relate to. Thank goodness with not as much disasterous results but this city girl and barbed wire were introduced very quickly when we purchased the quarter 43 years ago ! Our youngest son has arm scars from such an encounter when he,his brothers and father were fencing the east side of the quarter. Not a pretty sight, I agree. No wonder he still calls it "slave camp", of whatever year :-).

    Love June

    ReplyDelete

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