Fence | Twisp, WA | 2016

In the distant past, I occasionally wrestled barbed wire onto fence posts and lived (barely) to tell about it. So I’ve come to consider any spiky-wire enclosure as a guts-and-grit marvel — particularly those older fences requiring hand-dug holes in rock-packed soil. Westerners love the idea of a cowboy working his lonesome way across an endless landscape and never leaving a mark. But the truth is that every barbed wire fence carries a ranch hand’s signature — posts straight? wires tight? staples hammered just right? Years ago, I walked a miles-long fence with a rancher searching for “cow holes.” His stock was getting loose. I asked him if he’d strung all that barbed wire. He thought for a minute, then knelt at the base of a post to inspect a fence nail. “Nah,” he said, rubbing at the nail with a gloved hand. “Looks like my cousin did this one.”