Simple but effective (Wikipedia)
Simple but effective (Wikipedia)

Growing up on a small farm in Tasmania, I often felt that the whole place was held together with barbed wire and binder twine. Most of our fences were made of  wire and wooden ‘droppers’. My sister and I quite enjoyed collecting snagged  sheep’s  wool from the barbs, but regularly ruined  our own woolly jumpers clambering between  the  strands.

Oh no! Barbed wire was a disaster for woolen jumpers.
Oh no! What will Mum say?

I might add that barbed wire  gates had nothing to recommend them whatsoever.

The bane of my young life!
The bane of my young life!

Oh the physical and emotional stress! Small hands trying to slide a loop of wire over a dropper while straining to stretch a multi-strand gate. Sometimes it took two!


Only the thought of  my increasingly impatient father  waiting on the tractor gave me the necessary strength.  Despite this, I felt a wave of nostalgia  when I first heard this  line from the John Williamson song, True Blue;  ‘Would you tie it up with wire, just to keep the show on the road?’  Well of course I would!

Would you tie it up with wire?
Would you tie it up with wire?

Keeping a coil or two of barbed wire on hand in case a hasty repair is required makes good sense!

Coils of barbed wire ready in case of need!

The primary use  of twine on our farm was  to secure bales of hay as they  were belched  from  a neighbour’s  clattering old  baler in a shower of chaff.

I loved the old baler.
I loved the old baler.

We kids would follow along behind,  pushing  the ends of the twine into each bale with a steel needle. A very satisfying occupation. After they had been turned a couple of time, (usually by we kids) and were dry enough, it was home with them to the barn. Transport was by horse and cart in the early days.

Myself (middle front) and my three older siblings.

Binder twine had a multitude of other uses.  Even my mother used it, to  tie up rampant shrubs in the garden. It  was also just the thing for making  skipping ropes. To provide enough weight, three or four strands were required; knotted at intervals of a foot or so.  We made short ones for individual use, long ones for communal skipping when other  kids in the district came to  play.   Oh yes, and lengths of  it were threaded through holes in tin cans to make our version of stilts. It’s a wonder we didn’t break our ankles.  It provided  lassoes and handcuffs for our  more politically incorrect games, reins for  hobby horses,  and steering  ropes  for  go-karts.

To my great joy I have discovered that in Ontario, Canada there is an annual Festival of Twine, culminating with the crowning of the twine Queen. One to put on my bucket list I think.

Binder Twin Queen...what an honour!
Binder Twin Queen…what an honour!


I find the  juxtaposition of a beautiful  Australian bird sitting on barbed wire very moving. Many thanks to Lindy, Wanda and Laurie for allowing me to use their photographs.

Photo courtesy of Lindy Quin
Photo courtesy of Lindy Quin
Pardalote on wire (courtesy of Wanda
Pardalote on wire (courtesy of Wanda Optland)
Barbs are no barrier to having fun.
Barbs are no barrier to having fun. (courtesy of Lindy Quin)

Sadly, barbed wire is also  associated with  conflict and confinement. I must thank Sharon Bowen for the photo below. It was taken while she was visiting WWI battlefields on The Western Front in 2015. The photo could just as easily be substituted by one from countless other wars, prisoner of  war  camps, or  asylum centres

WesternFrot Sharon Bowen

The following photo was taken by Laurie Smith. A delicate  Blue Wren perches on the perimeter fence of Silverwater Gaol in New South Wales. Such a poignant image.

The perimeter fence at Silverwater Gaol.
Free as a bird!  Photo credit;  Laurie Smith

Here is another  interesting juxtaposition, this time with a gorgeous waratah bloom;

Waratah and barbed wire

In many ways, barbed wire and binder twine symbolize my  rural childhood.  And yes, I longed  to escape what  I perceived as restriction  and limited  horizons. Of course I now look back with nostalgia and affection.  This is perfectly expressed in the image below, by photographer Darryl Butler.

Photo credit - Darryl Butler.
Photo credit – Darryl Butler.

My  yearnings  for  the world beyond  our little farm led to the horror of an episode remembered  as Dear Miss All.

  1. What an accolade, Binder Twine Queen!

    • Pauline

      I might crown myself the Australian Twine Queen. Haha.

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