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As It Was: Modoc Forest Rancher Resists Barbed Wire Removal

During the early 1900s thousands of cattle and sheep grazed on U.S. Forest Service land in the Modoc National Forest.

Miles of barbed wire fencing crisscrossed the range and became useless when land ownership and management methods changed.  It often got in the way of ranging cattle and sheep.  Removal of the barbed fencing fell to Forest Service rangers.

Free-range cattlemen tended to be so proudly independent they sometimes resisted government interference even when it was for their own good.  Their belligerence had led to shootouts, but in one conflict between a rancher and rangers a woman kept the peace.

The woman’s husband had threatened to shoot any ranger attempting to remove fences adjoining his property. The rangers tried diplomacy, but the cattleman stood firm, glaring at them taking down the fences while he sat on his porch holding a high-power rifle.

At noon, the wife invited the rangers to lunch.  She was either an outstanding cook or the rangers’ diplomacy improved.  During lunch, the husband’s belligerent attitude dissipated, and after a good meal, he ended up helping the rangers remove the wire.  No blood was shed.

 

Sources: Brown, Sr., William S. "History of the Modoc National Forest 1945;" Modoc National Forest: History and Culture, U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service, www.fs.usda.gov/detail/modoc/learning/history-culture. Accessed 22 July 2017.

Sharon Bywater of Ashland, Oregon grew up in Southern California. She taught English literature and writing at Syracuse University in New York, where she also wrote and edited adult literacy books and published freelance articles in local media. Later, she lived in Washington, D.C., where she worked as an international telecommunications policy advisor at the U.S. Department of Commerce. She has Master’s degrees in English and Communications Management.