Barbed Wire

I love removing barbed wire. It's an act of liberation of the land to remove barbed wire fencing. Besides opening up the terrain to the natural movement of animals -- dear, elk, bears, coyotes, mountain lions -- it reduces the chance that one of them or even cattle, will be trapped in the fencing and die. This happened to a cow on a nearby property this year.

And nothing is more satisfying that removing barbed wire that has become embedded in a tree. I feel like Androclese and the giant fir. Removing barbed wire from a tree is an act of kindness. I really take it personally when I see the bark of the tree enfolding the metal vine, oozing its piney pus at each end; the tree having cried for relief from the wound for ten, twenty, thirty years. Who can tell?

It's upsetting to see the fencing embedded in the trunk because it's so needless. For the cost of one more metal T-post, the tree could be entirely spared. Not only that, but removing the wire when it, and the staples used to attach it have grown into the very fiber of the tree is no easy task. Like pulling molars. And drive in two staples? On a post one would use one. On the T-posts they are merely clipped on. So why inflict the extra measure of grief with a second staple?

Today I removed as much wire as I could from the base of a 60-foot Doug fir. It is a sign of another way of thinking about nature that the old wires that had been stapled -- and were now part 'n parcel of the tree itself -- had been cut on one side and new wires added even though the injury was clearly visible. The entire base of the tree on the wire side was suffering terribly from stunted growth and fungal infections where the wires entered the tree. At each piercing black tar, like clotted blood, filled the openings. Even the old barbed wire had been casually tossed aside and left on the ground as if it would pose no danger while it took a few decades to disintegrate.

Worse, the new wire had merely been wrapped around the tree like a tourniquet, and slowly the tree was cutting itself down. Fortunately this last act had taken place within the past 5 years or so, and with some effort I was able to remove this newest bondage. As for the old wires I was only able to cut off as deep into the bark as possible, leaving them there like so much shrapnel in a wounded soldier; in hopes that they would heal over. Should the tree survive, no doubt on cold days I will hear it groaning as the old injuries act up.

November 28, 2003