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Barbed Wire Museum

Whenever our intrepid reporter, Cash Peters, takes us on one of his infamous Bad Taste Tours, it's pretty cut and dry. The Parisian Sewer Tour? Bad Taste. The Red Light District of Amsterdam? No brainer. But every once in awhile Cash stumbles upon a place where it's hard to decide if what we're encountering is tacky and disturbing, or if it's just plain weird. You decide as Cash takes us on a trip to the Barbed Wire Museum in Kansas.

Bad Taste Tour: The Barbed Wire Museum
by Cash Peters

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"If you thought John Wayne tamed the West, think again. It was four men you've never heard of..."

And since I'm not going to tell you their names, you still won't have heard of them, but in the 1800's they took some crazy French invention called barbed wire which, roughly translated, means 'barbed wire', and they made it popular. To find out more, I went to The Barbed Wire Museum in Lacrosse, Kansas to meet the curator Ruby Shank. Now, you have to understand, I drove for six hours across the prairie for this, and when I got there...

Cash: "Where is Ruby?"

Receptionist: "She's playing bridge."

Cash: "But I'm radio. She should be here."

Receptionist: "Sorry. Bridge comes first."

Cash: "You don't think that's rather selfish of her?"

Receptionist: "Sure it is, yes."

And that was that. No Ruby. However, she did send her husband Lee along to give me a guided tour and, you know, it's thrilling stuff. Barbed wire, it turns out, has many, many uses. Well, okay, one.

Lee: "It was to keep the trail herds and buffalo from trampling the crops of the first settlers who moved here."

Museum Video: "The trail herds that devastated Kansas started out in Eastern Texas, the other end of the Chisholm Trail..."

That's the barbed wire video. Anyway, as well as having 970 types of barbed wire on display, the museum has lots of other stuff, including machines for stretching barbed wire, liniment in case you cut yourself stretching it, plus an amazing device designed specifically to make your ear-drums bleed. Apparently it also makes barbed wire, but who cares about that?

Unbelievably, some people are so fascinated that they even collect barbed wire. Seems they just can't get enough of this amazing flesh-snagging product.

Museum Video: "Mark Owen has been collecting barbed wire around here for 25 years. [Owen] 'There are many variations, in that I might twist my lines in one direction, you might twist yours in the other direction. You might twist yours that way; I might twist mine this way...'"

Cash: "Lee, there's more barbed wire down here."

Lee: "Sure."

Cash: "But to me it looks exactly like the barbed wire down the other side."

Lee: "Well, it's for the same reason."

Cash: "You're proving to be a very difficult interviewee."


Actually, I do know quite a lot about this subject. I never missed an episode of Bonanza, so I'm pretty clued up. But even I thought this was too much. Most of my time was spent walking around, saying...

Cash: "Ooh, more barbed wire."

It's everywhere. And just when you think it can't get any more interesting, it doesn't. Diane Morse works for the Lacrosse Chamber of Commerce.

Diane: "I have gotten a lot of strange calls at the Chamber Office. People will ask about the museum. I say, 'You'd better come and see it. We're the Barbed Wire Capital of the World.' They say, 'Oh, you're kidding.' But that's what put us on the map and we're proud of it."

Cash: "What happens if this closes down?"

Diane: "I guess we have to find something else to keep us on the map."

Cash: "You could get people who collect gravel."

I wasn't joking. Because of new fence technology, barbed wire's days are numbered. It could soon die out, and take the museum with it.

Lee: "They've got fences now you can't even see. They put a little thing around the cow's neck."

Cash: "That's clever."

Lee: "It is clever. They've got it for dogs."

Cash: "You see, if you put it on Ruby, she'd never make it to her bridge class."

Lee: "Oh, I don't know. She's pretty smart."

Cash: "That woman. Confound her!"

Frankly, if even the curator of the museum is too busy to turn up, maybe barbed wire's days really are numbered. In the meantime there are still some benefits to visiting the museum. For receptionist Delilah Wilcoxson apparently, it's a sex thing.

Cash: "Do you find barbed wire a bit of a turn-on?"

Delilah: "Sure. Don't you?"

Cash: "Obviously not as much as you do."

Delilah: "No, not really. Just the men who come in here who are interested."

Cash: "You're here for the men, aren't you?"

Delilah: 'Yes, definitely."

Cash: "All these big, hunking guys."

Delilah: "Yes, right."

Cash: "They may have tamed the West but I suspect they wouldn't be able to tame you."

Delilah: "No, no, no."

Diane: "I hope the museum never has to close."

Cash: "It's interesting that it's the one thing that, if it burnt down, it would make no difference. There'd still be the barbed wire left."

Diane: "That's true."

Cash: "Let's set fire to it now."

Diane: "No."

Cash: "Let's torch the place."

I'm not saying we did, and I'm not saying we didn't. In what's left of Lacrosse, Kansas, I'm Cash Peters for The Savvy Traveler.


Visit The Barbed Wire Museum
P.O. Box 716 / La Crosse, Kansas 67548
Hours: 10:00-4:30 Mon-Sat & 1:00-4:30 Sun
Phone: 785-222-3220


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