Texas Primer: The Drill-Stem Fence

Barbed wire may have won the West, but today’s best fences come from the oil patch.
Texas Primer: The Drill-Stem Fence
Photograph by Wyatt McSpadden

You’ve seen one, whether you know it or not, usually enclosing a pasture of good green grass, with placidly grazing horses and a palatial ranch house in the distance. The posts and the top rails of the fence are made of steel pipe, called drill stem, and the lower rails are made of steel rods, called sucker rods. You see these fences all over Texas, from Borger to Beaumont, but especially near oil fields. The pipe and the rod are oil-field surplus, one of the great recyclable natural resources of Texas. Of course, old cowboys say the best fence is none at all, but if you have to have a fence—and in a land crisscrossed by freeways, you do—this one is the choice, for more reasons than you can shake a sucker rod at.

The drill-stem fence, also called a pipe fence, is primarily for horses, because a high-strung horse can injure himself on barbed wire. Also, the horse business is mainly show business nowadays, and the horseman wants his ranch to make a good impression. The drill-stem fence does that. Freshly painted, running straight and strong, it radiates stability and integrity. And money. Now, in Maryland and Kentucky, horse raisers accomplish the same result with those neat white wooden fences. Their fields are a pretty sight, no question, and with next year’s Derby contenders behind them, the


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