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Barbed Wire
by Josiah Willard Glidden

In honor of the partnership of Joseph Farwell Glidden and Isaac L. Ellwood, December 1875.

Who made the first fence,
and what was it like?
'Twas made out of brush
without nail or spike.
It did very well in those primitive days,
When newly-fledged farmers
but little did raise,
When cattle were few and
hogs that now run,
Four footed and otherwise
scarcely were known.
Ah! yes: such a fence
might do very well
For those who had little to
buy or to sell;
But what would it be in the
times such as now?
Not more than a cobweb
to stop an old cow.
The next fence to speak of
was made out of rails;
It took lots of timber, but not any nails;
It took lots of pounding to
split up the logs;
But made a good fence
to stop cattle and hogs.
It must be laid crooked or else
wouldn't stand--
In this way it took a good
piece of the land.
With stakes and with riders
we saw it displayed,
Somewhat like a fortress,
or strong barricade,
'Twas looked upon then with
much pride and joy,
I remember it well; when I was a boy,
From the heat of the sun it
offered a shade,
While hide-and-go-seek in
the corners we played.
The time-honored stone wall
must not be forgot,
For with it was bounded full many a lot,
There's one point where
memory never doth fail.
The ground was covered with
stones thick as hail.
With oxen and stoneboat we
gathered the stones.
It made our hearts ache, as well
as our bones.
It had to be laid up so wide
and so high,
And made just as true as
the squint of your eye;
So broad at the base, and
so narrow the top,
'Til over it you were not able to hop;
But over it sometimes
would go the bold sheep,
The stones rolling after
them all in a heap.

'Twas well for the genius
of man who invents
Who found out a way to
make a board fence;
And surely, most surely, it
was a good bit
To saw up the timber they
couldn't well split,
And everyone said, "What is
better than that?
"They could make it so tight
to stop even a rat."
And then they could make it
so straight on a line,
'Twould do for a noon-mark when sunbeams did shine,
And it took up so little room on the soil,
It paid for itself in the lightening of toil.

There's various hedges that
oft have been tried,
And some have done well, it
can't be denied.
Dame Nature hath shown
us full many a feat,
But now we must say she
herself has been beat.
The thorns on the hedges
supplanted have been
By the barbs on the wires,
so sharp and so keen;
The hedges themselves have grown tedious the while,
Since wires in a twinkling
stretch many a mile.
Then hail to the genius of this
present age,
That with a good will in good
works doth engage,
And Joseph and Isaac, now
joined hand in hand,
As the prophet foretold, shall
be great in the land.
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