Working this week on an article called “Literary Barbed Wire: Stretching and Cutting Fence from ‘The Connecticut Yankee’ to ‘Brokeback Mountain.’” With my mind focused on the late-nineteenth-century “invention,” I wasn’t surprised when I came upon this fence in snowy Utah Valley (“to invent” means, in the root sense, “to come upon”).
Control is the end promised by barbed-wire advertisements; barbed wire is the means. A hyperbolic paragraph in the 1885 Glidden Barb-Fence Journal makes this explicit:
It is the cheapest; it is the most indestructible; it is proof against wind; proof against flood; proof against fire; proof against snow drifts; proof against vermin. It casts no shade; it does not exhaust the soil. It is not stolen for fuel. It does not decay; boys cannot crawl through or over it; nor dogs; nor cats; nor any other animal; it watches with argus eyes the inside and outside, up, down and lengthwise; it prevents the “ins” from being “outs;” and the “outs” from being “ins;” watches at day-break, at noontide, at sunset and all night long; it is the lightest to handle; the strongest when erected; the easiest to transport. It saves lumber, nails, labor, vexation, time, patience, profanity and the crops. It answers all requirements of a perfect fence; it is in fact the only perfect fence.