Tribute to Barbed Wire.

Devil's Rope Museum - Barbed Wire

Field review by the editors.

McLean, Texas

A museum of barbed wire -- that's what The Devil's Rope Museum is -- can't help but raise questions. One of ours was: "Do you stock band-aids?" And they do.

Barbed wire has many fans in the Texas panhandle. The prairie provided no trees or rocks to make fences when the settlers arrived. They couldn't separate the crops from the cows. Did they throw up their hands and give the land back to the Indians and Mexicans? Heck no! American ingenuity came to the rescue in the form of barbed wire -- thousands of varieties -- and most of them are on display in the Devil's Rope Museum.

Delbert Trew, curator.
Delbert Trew.

"Barbed wire gave us boundaries, gave us ownership of land," said Delbert Trew, a retired panhandle rancher and the museum's curator. "You couldn't drive up and down the highways if it wasn't for barbed wire."

The museum promises to show "more barbed wire designs than you can imagine." Walls are filled with thousands of varieties of wire mounted like the spokes of wagon wheels, each strand tagged and identified. Large, padlocked cases display the rarest types, such as the Cocklebur and Dodge Star, which Delbert said are worth hundreds and hundreds of dollars for only a few inches of wire.

But not all barbed wire is desirable. Delbert walked us back to an exhibit on "War Wire," designed to be far more vicious than ranch wire because, unlike valuable cow leather, it doesn't matter if human skin is ripped to shreds. "It's a nasty, dirty, dangerous, cruel thing when you use barbed wire against your fellow man," Delbert said. He showed us displays of digging tools, cutters, mauls, salesman samples, fence posts made from limestone.

Muleback barbed wire reel.

Delbert then hammered and cranked out some fresh barbed wire on a home-built contraption assembled from parts of a windmill, "another invention that tamed the Old West." It's a demonstration that he obviously enjoys giving for visitors.

Fascinating? To a point. Delbert conceded that "you don't find many women interested in barbed wire and barbed wire tools," so the museum also exhibits barbed wire art, dozens of examples, including a life-size jackrabbit, snake, coyote, rattlesnake, and an armadillo with a spring for a tail. One piece, a barbed wire cowboy hat, was made by "a hippie in Santa Fe or Taos," according to Delbert, but most of the art was made by Delbert himself.

War Wire exhibit.

"Have you ever been cut by barbed wire?" we asked the rancher. Delbert rolled up his sleeves to show the scars. "Do you keep up your tetanus shots?" "You bet," he answered. "Do people ever get confused by the Devil's Rope name?" "Some people," he said. "They think it's some kind of cult museum."

Delbert told us that 70 percent of the museum's visitors are foreign, in part because it's on Route 66 and has a small Route 66 museum. "They've never seen barbed wire before," he said in wonder. "They don't understand it. You take 500 Europeans that come in here, there won't be ten of 'em that actually own where they live. They don't own property. They rent."

Scorpion made from barbed wire by Bob Letgen.

Delbert said the museum is always looking for knowledgeable (and thick-skinned) volunteers, but that they're increasingly difficult to find. The museum's wire, however, will remain, shielded from the elements, preserved by the dry air, ready to deliver its message to incautious tourists even if no one is around to explain it.

"Barbed wire teaches you," Delbert said. "You don't need but one lesson."

Devil's Rope Museum - Barbed Wire

Address:
100 Kingsley St., McLean, TX
Directions:
Just off I-40 on Old Route 66 (I-40 Business) on the east side of MacLean, TX. Visible from the road when heading west through town on Old Route 66.
Hours:
M-F 9-5, Sa 10-4, closed Dec-Feb. (Call to verify)
Phone:
806-779-2225
RA Rates:
Major Fun
Save to My Sights

Nearby Offbeat Places

More Quirky Attractions in Texas

Stories, reports and tips on tourist attractions and odd sights in Texas.

Explore Thousands of Unique Roadside Landmarks!

Strange and amusing destinations in the US and Canada are our specialty. Start here.
Use RoadsideAmerica.com's Attraction Maps to plan your next road trip.

October 31, 2014

My Sights

Map and Plan Your Own Roadside Adventure

Try My Sights

Roadside America app
Roadside Presidents app

Texas Latest Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sight of the Week

Sight of the Week

Wolf's Museum of Mystery, St. Augustine, Florida (Oct 27-Nov 2, 2014)

SotW Archive

USA and Canada Tips and Stories

Latest Visitor Tips

Sightings. Arrives without warning. Leaves no burn marks. A free newsletter from RoadsideAmerica.com. Subscribe now!
RoadsideAmerica.com Hotel & Motel Finder

Special online rates for hotels & motels.

Nearby Hotels and Motels, McLean, Texas

Nightly rates found:

Book Online Now