Small Things, Major Shifts

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In 1867, a small breakthrough happened out of necessity. A guy needed a better and cheaper way to keep cattle confined to his property. Traditional fencing was too expensive and difficult to build. He invented barbed wire, a strand of simple wire with sharp little spikes every few inches.

I was fascinated to see the “barbed wire” room at the cowboy and western museum in Oklahoma City a few months ago. I didn’t realize there were that many different types of barbed wire. For the most part, barbed wire seems relatively simple, basic, and normal.

I recently learned that barbed wire is actually the one small thing that caused the cowboy way of life to fade. In the years after the civil war, thousands of veterans and freed slaves made their way west in search of a new life. Many found work on cattle drives. The goal of these drives was to get the herds from Texas to the nearest railroad in Kansas and Nebraska. For about 20 years, this was a major part of our nation (and created the icon of a cowboy as larger than life).

As soon as barbed wire hit the shelves and pioneers began using it in droves, it virtually closed off the open range of the plains. Cattle drives from South to North could no longer make the journey. Farms with barbed wire fences blocked the trails and changed the cowboy way of life forever.

The smallest thing can create major shifts. Little changes can have huge implications. We can probably all think of negative ways this happens. But what inspires me is thinking of the positive ways major shifts can come from small innovations.

Always be willing to do the small things and do them well. You never know what may happen because of it!

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