The barbed wire fence is a potent and deeply paradoxical symbol in the American West. On one hand, it is the triumphant emblem of Anglo-America's conquest of the land once referred to as the Great American Desert, of the sheer force of human will necessary to empty it of those animals like the buffalo that do not serve Anglo America's needs and to fill it instead with cattle--nature tamed and controlled by the sharp-edged product of Eastern facroties. It is also, for many Westerners, the sign of some final closure, usually expressed nostalgically as the loss of the wandering horseman's right to travel freely and without restriction across the landscape. That wandering horseman, the lone cowboy with his bedroll and his rifle, is the most commonly recognized modern American expression of the sacred hunter, the lone male in the wilderness, here digging the postholes that mark his own demise and performing the final fencing-in of th natural world.
Heh. Fascinating. I wonder if John McCain was struggling to make sense of this kind of mythopoesis, when he exorted the federal government to Build the Dang Fence.