Saving Bales and Then Some

The secret to the success of our marriage and our ranch among other kinds of work is baling wire. Between my husband and me, it takes a lot to hold a ranch together; mostly a lot of baling wire. We fix the majority of our problems with this ranch necessity.

We have an old square baler that has problems every time we use it, but it’s always been a part of our ranch because its main purpose is to contribute to resolving all the rest of the ranch-related problems we have. For those unfamiliar with this old-style haying equipment, it’s a machine that makes handy-sized lengths of reusable baling wire. Another neat feature is that it produces square hay bales. Wire-tied bales can be stored for years and mice can’t chew them apart like they can twine bales.

Baling wire is so durable that a little scrap goes a long way, especially when there’s a lot of it on hand. We tuck it between barn walls, twist it onto panels, gates, and fences, and hang it off of pickups for added convenience and availability.

Money, tools, and other nonsense like replacement parts also go a lot farther because they aren’t always necessary as long as we have baling wire on hand and our miracle wire can fix it. Serious ranch related headaches that call for a beer such as water pump troubles, livestock well issues, or incapacitated tank floats for example, usually get repaired by incorporating baling wire instead.

A rancher—or anybody else for that matter—can’t go wrong with baling wire because it doesn’t take up much space and is cost-effective. It’s readily available for fixing a problem once discovered, and oftentimes is enough to do the job. A piece of folded up baling wire can easily be stowed under or behind a pickup seat or in a pickup box.

Besides being the easiest ranch staple to work with, it serves a multitude of uses. Baling wire suffices to repair headstalls and bicycle parts, makes key rings, a car antenna, hooks, or handles on water jugs, buckets and coffee thermoses. It’ll hang Christmas ornaments and outdoor lights, and replaces fence clips, hose clamps, gate chains, and door latches. It secures broken fence wires or livestock panels together and will keep a headlight in place as well as a car battery, but baling wire isn’t just for fixing our problems. It makes a dandy hotdog and marshmallow skewer, stringer for fishing; hanging flower baskets and birdhouses with, and makes wire-rimmed glasses for Halloween costumes. Even rusty baling wire serves as a reliable fix on machinery, vehicles, or fences until it can be properly replaced with a new piece of baling wire.

Leftover baling wire is the most versatile, inexpensive and valuable of resources in ranch country as any old timer knows. Several times older ranchers have asked us if they could take some home. Like those who are familiar with this wire, my husband can’t live without it. They know it’s tough, reliable, adapts well to most tasks, is long-standing and always on hand to be put to use. It holds up well under all kinds of circumstances and is easy to work with due to its flexibility. Basically, it’s very similar to having a ranch wife around.

This column was originally published August 1-7, 2010

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