Grit Blogs > Oregon Trails

Recycling Barbed Wire

Sarah S HeadshotYou know how some people don’t tie down there loads and things fly out along the road. My father is not one of those. In fact he’s quite the opposite. He’s one of the guys that will be driving at 55 mph and come to a complete stop on the shoulder, throw it in reverse and pick up all sorts of treasures. He’s most famous for the red load flags that fall of log trucks. He’s got quite a collection of them. But he’s picked up a lot of other things too, tools, chains, binders and the crème’ del la crème’ an extension cord on a reel that my mother has used for years. I have picked up Dad’s habit. I’ve collected my share of binders, gas cans and breaker bars. But the oddest thing I’ve actually picked up was a roll of barbed wire last summer.

My husband and I were working in the middle of nowhere, a place called Paulina. (For those of you not familiar with Oregon you go to Post, which is the center of the state and head east.) The landscape is similar to any of a number of Western states: rolling hills, sagebrush and junipers with a few antelope scattered here and there. We were headed for the job site but had to pass through a long construction site where they were widening the road. As we drove we noticed that they were replacing the entire fence along the road. We passed one huge roll of wire and I told Hubby that we should stop and get it. He was mildly skeptical but didn’t give me an absolute no. We passed another roll and I just looked at him with a raised eyebrow. He smiled at me. Next we passed the lone fence builder. “Stop.” I told Hubby. He stopped. But he drew the line at asking the rancher for the wire. He told me if I wanted the wire, I had to ask.

I was mildly embarrassed, but I figured I’d never see the guy again, so what could it hurt? The rancher looked at me with one of those long quiet looks that I read as “What on earth is this stranger up to.” Nevertheless he was happy to get rid of the wire. He waved me off and I hopped back in the pickup.

The next roll we came to, Hubby and I hopped out and rolled it out of the ditch, onto the road and up to the tailgate. We put the tailgate down and wondered what we were going to do next. We had the generator, tools and the dog already crammed into the bed of the pickup. We hefted the circle of barbs onto the tailgate. The dog scrambled on top of the tool box and eyed us with reproach. With a lot of pokes and snags we wrangled the wire on top of all of the other stuff, shut the tailgate, and got back in the pickup. Hubby just shook his head and laughed. “You’re not gonna run out of wire for a long time.”

But in fact, I just ran out of that roll this month. “What,” you might ask, “does she do with all that old rusty wire? I make wreaths and flowers and angels and snowmen and any number of decorations with them. Who buys them, you ask? More people than you might think . I spent the first weekend of this month at our local Christmas Craft Fair. It’s an annual event that draws people from all over our county. And I sold a lot of barbed wire.

It is funny to watch the people. Women love my stuff, they put it in their garden, buy it for their friends, decorate their houses with it. But the men, they just don’t get it. They walk by my booth and shake their heads. That is until one man came in and started studying the barbs. Now some people might think that barbed wire is all the same. But it isn’t. There are two barbs and four barbs and barbs that are cut out of metal and barbs that are short pieces of wire and there are twisted and single strands and the list goes on. Different parts of the country use different kinds, and over the years changes in manufacturing have changed the styles.


All of this I knew. I even knew that there were people that collected barbed wire. I’ve seen displays of wire on large pieces of plywood with labels and the whole bit. Even with all of that knowledge I was still surprised when this gentleman asked me if I was a member of the Barbed Wire Society. I gave him one of those blank – “say what” stares. I couldn’t believe that people were that serious about their barbed wire. I mean I have two barbed wire angels on my front porch and a barbed wire star in my bathroom and rolls of it piled beside the shop and I’m pretty sure that’s not normal, but to actually be a member of a society for barbed wire and to go to conventions? That’s just -- well, I guess I don’t know what that is.

barbed wire wreath 1  

But I must say that barbed wire is a great medium for decorating. It’s cheap, recyclable, easily found, requires no maintenance and
can be used either indoors or out. And unlike traditional Christmas wreaths, they won’t wilt and you can leave them up year round. If you need some inspiration for your own decorations, I’ve provided some photos of my own works.