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Ozarks RDF


I came into some unexpected treasure a few weeks ago — wire-tied hay bales. After several years of relying on rusty wads hanging in forgotten corners of the barn, we have a fresh supply of baling wire. Wire-tied bales used to be common on Ozarks farms, and thus, an ample supply of wire. But in recent years fewer square bales have been tied with wire than with hemp or plastic twine, and small square bales have largely been

replaced by big, round bales. At the same time, farms have generally been replaced by housing subdivisions, too; but, that’s fodder for a different day. This is about baling wire. Before duct tape held the world together, baling wire did the job. When I was a boy growing up

on the farm, baling wire was almost as indispensable as the hay it bound into bales. It kept most of the place from falling down. If we hadn’t had baling wire as a natural byproduct of farming, no telling what kind of a mess we’d have been in.

Our old, rusty barbed wire fences wouldn’t have held a

broken down milk cow, if not for baling wire to mend the breaks and hold the gates. Any size or series of breaks

could be fixed with enough baling wire. Wrapped around

the post, it also sufficed to hold things in place where a rusty staple (or “steeple,” as we called ‘em) had fallen out of a rock-hard, spindly oak or hedge post.

Maybe it didn’t make for the fanciest fence in the county; but, it cost next to nothing at all, it was what we had, and it did the job--- at least ‘til next time.

No handier a repair kit was ever invented than a pair of pliers and a wad of baling wire in the back pocket of a pair of overalls, the newer and more pliable the wire, the better. Just about anything could be fixed with wire and pliers. Working on old cars and trucks, we discovered that a tin can with both ends cut out and split along the seam made a passable patch for a muffler or tailpipe. Baling wire, of course, became the clamp to hold it on.

A few tight wraps of wire around a broken hoe handle could make it almost as good as new. A generous wrap of tape over the wire made it even better--- a little easier on the hands. What we generally used was that

sticky, black friction tape. I don’t recall ever seeing a roll of gray duct tape when I was a boy. In desperation I once tied up a floppy shoe sole with loops of baling wire twisted tight and cut. It didn’t look too fashionable,

but it got me through a day of school. With their penchant for poking pins and wires through their noses, ears, eyebrows and other body parts, some teens

today might wish they had a pair of my baling wire brogans. Wonder if that fellow Doc Marten is in the phone book?

Our most fortuitous employ of baling wire came one night when we’d gone fishing down on the Pomme de Terre and the tie rod end dropped off our ‘48 Ford pickup as we were turning around to leave. Dad retrieved a length of baling wire from under the truck seat, pulled the longnosed pliers from his overalls (the same pliers he used for peeling the skins off of catfish), crawled under the truck and wired it all back together.

In less than 10 minutes, we were on the road and headed home--- not at breakneck speed, but not walking, either. Baling wire saved the night. The possibilities of baling wire are endless. It’s really a lot

better than duct tape. It’s like string, but a lot stronger, stiffer and tougher. Just think of all the uses we have for string (I guess we’d have to draw the line at flying kites. I can’t imagine using baling wire in place of kite string; but, it might be used to tie two crossed sticks into a


As a rule, we used it to tie or hang most anything. From

baling wire I could fashion a new link in a broken dog chain, make a tie to close a gunny sack, a latch for any gate on the place or tie down a tarp over the hay.

Its applications are as infinite as an Ozarker’s ingenuity.

I’m proud to again have some around. It could prove even luckier than this buckeye in my pocket.

RFD “Favorites” are previously published columns selected by author Jim Hamilton while he takes a break from the weekly routine. Read more of his works in “Ozarks RFD 2010-2015,” available online from Amazon,

Barnes & Noble or from the author. Copyright 2023, James E. Hamilton.


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