MCLEAN, Texas--Most people don't think twice about barbed wire, unless they happen to be cattle ranchers, farmers, or junkyard owners. You don't have to be any of those to step into the Devil's Rope Museum on Route 66 here in McLean, Texas, and immerse yourself in the history and lore of the pointy fencing material.
I'll admit that at first, I thought the idea of a museum dedicated to barbed wire was pretty weird and possibly a little dull. How many types of barbed wire can there really be? As it turns out, thousands. Some of them have some real personality to them, too. One looks like a series of miniature spurs. Another comes in a cheerful shade of red. Some look like wicked ribbons. Festive, but dangerous.
One surprise is the level of ingenuity surrounding the cult of barbed wire. Do-it-yourselfers have adapted the material into sculptures, crows have woven it into nests, and inventors have dedicated countless hours to one-upping each other on barbed wire design and technology. Barbed wire should make it onto every serious maker's materials list.
The idea for barbed wire first popped up in the mid-1800s. An endless stream of innovations and adaptions have radiated out ever since. It's not all strings of wire at the Devil's Rope. You can ogle post hole diggers, cattle brands, decorative fence toppers, salesman samples, barbed wire art, and fence-making machines that could double as medieval torture devices.
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I was seriously considering starting up my own barbed wire collection by the time I made it into the gift shop. Like many offbeat and obsessive hobbies, it can add up. Certain pieces of rare barbed wire fetch hundreds of dollars among collectors.
One thing is certain: I will never look at barbed wire the same way again. Drop me a line if you happen to have a spare 18-inch strand of "Spur Rowel" wire laying around. I need a centerpiece for my collection.