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June 15, 2024 32 mins

Nowadays smartphones are an ubiquitous part of many civilizations, but not so long ago telephones of any sort were a rare commodity -- and the infrastructure was enormously expensive. When telephones hit the mass market, companies focused on densely-populated urban areas, leaving rural communities with no hope of getting a phone line. Until, that is, a group of MacGyver-esque farmers figured out an ingenious way to connect not just themselves, but everyone in their town.

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Episode Transcript

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Speaker 1 (00:00):
Hey man, have you ever have you ever looked at
barbed wire and thought that could be a phone? Oh?

Speaker 2 (00:07):
Boy?

Speaker 3 (00:08):
Well, no, it scares me barbed wire. I find it
to be oppressive and sharp and pointing and usually rusting. Yeah,
it really does.

Speaker 2 (00:16):
No.

Speaker 3 (00:16):
But back in the day, some very industrious farmers figured
out how to do just that, essentially, turn the barbed
wire fences that comprise their farms into a way of
communicating between farms, essentially like a self contained telephone network.
Pretty cool stuff. But how do they do it? Well,
we'll find.

Speaker 1 (00:36):
Out in this classic episode for all fans of improvisation mcgiver, etc.
Improvise adapt to overcome. Seriously, though it's so weird it's wild,
let's roll it. Ridiculous. History is a production of iHeartRadio.

(01:21):
I think Casey could we could we start this episode
off with the old school dialing a number kind of
telephone things.

Speaker 2 (01:47):
There we go, I'm ben Hello, I mean hello, it's
me happened man along?

Speaker 1 (01:57):
Oh yeah, no, no, okay, I was I thought the
who Hold music was good enough that I was. I
was going to sit there with everyone for a while.

Speaker 2 (02:05):
I was thinking about it like that. I was just
doing a little telephone related music number from Todd Runggren
by way of Adele, and.

Speaker 1 (02:14):
You're here to listen to that holding music as well.
Thanks so much for dropping by, folks. This is ridiculous history, Noel.
Before we begin, I have to ask you something that
I'm sure both you and our super producer Casey Pegrim
have heard numerous times in our meetings here. If you've
ever been on hold at a conference call and there's

(02:37):
this terrible song about being on hold on a telephone.

Speaker 2 (02:43):
Yeah, that's that's uber conference, I think, is what you're
talking about, Ben, I mean waiting on conference. I wonder
where are my friends? I wonder where are my friends?
Where did they go? It's really and it's sort of Yeah,
it's cute the first time you hear it, but then
it just it just kind of wears on you, grapes

(03:04):
on you.

Speaker 1 (03:04):
Yeah, it never ends. At some point, it indeterminably loops
and you're still waiting.

Speaker 2 (03:10):
Yeah, and it's weird because listeners peep behind the curtain.
When we're not podcasting, we're on conference calls, and typically
on conference calls where the people we're waiting for never
show up, So we just hear that song over and
over and over again.

Speaker 1 (03:21):
It's like a more Internet trolley version of Waiting for goodo.

Speaker 2 (03:25):
Yeah. And you know that kind of figures into the
story for today, because there's a lot of themes in
this story that are kind of pre internetty, aren't they been?

Speaker 1 (03:34):
Absolutely in a very prescient way. I would argue, it
turns out so that we don't bury the lead too much.
Back in the day, before the days of snazzy cell phones,
before the days of even those awkward nineteen eighties Wall
Street hot shot phones. You know what I'm talking about.
Sure for everybody I'm miming awkwardly to know that this

(03:56):
is the big antenna.

Speaker 2 (03:57):
Yeah, he's due as sort of a swoop of the arm.
I'm also thinking about the ones that came in a bag.

Speaker 1 (04:02):
Oh yeah, yeah. Before the days of all that stuff,
when the telephone was a new, fancy and vital invention, right,
people ran into problems. One of the big problems was infrastructure,
especially in rural areas. In the early nineteen hundreds, there
were so many amazing innovations. We got refrigerators, radios, electric

(04:26):
washing machines, and so on. But one of the more
simplistic innovations of the let's say late eighteen hundreds. That
played a huge role in communication for a while was
oddly enough, barbed wire.

Speaker 2 (04:41):
That's right. It was incredibly effective and innovative in exactly
the thing that it was meant to do, which was
to keep things in or not let things out. And
it was patented in eighteen seventy four by Joseph Glidden,
that's right. And not long after that at all. Telephone
was patented in eighteen seventy seven, and barb wire played

(05:05):
a big role in helping to spread the use of
the telephone to some of those rural places that did
not have access to that infrastructure. Because ma Bell, as
it was known, had to get the most bang for
her buck, right, so she was going to install those
lines only in the places where they could have the
most customers, that were the closest together, right.

Speaker 1 (05:26):
Right, therefore cities, right, urban populations, And we see we
see a similar thing happening with telecommunications construction in rural
areas of the United States at least today. But once
the patents, once the patents for the phone began to
expire in around eighteen ninety three or so, other companies

(05:48):
were making phones. Willy Nilly Sears Roebuck made a phone.
I mean they made almost everything back then, right, they
were the costco of their time. But the point is
it became much easier to purchase a telephone set. It
did not, however, come with in the box a telephone
line network.

Speaker 2 (06:08):
A network.

Speaker 1 (06:09):
Yeah. And so what several enterprising farmers did is they said, well,
if a wire is a wire, right, and if we
can transmit sound, is this a riddle? Yeah? Right? How
long is a piece of wire? Right? The question they
asked is are the wires in fencing that we have
already built? Because barbedire was tremendously popular and effective at

(06:32):
preventing you know, bulls from getting toward heifer's when it
wasn't breeding season.

Speaker 2 (06:37):
And keeping them away from china shops and keeping them
away from the important china shop industry at the time,
what they said is, let's give it a go.

Speaker 1 (06:47):
Let's see what happens if we connect the wire of
a telephone to the wire on a barbed wire fence,
and it turns out it worked really, really well. Typically,
they'd take a smooth wire strung from a telephone in
a house or a barn to a barbed wire fence
then it would hook to the top strand of barbed wire.

(07:09):
Most fences had you know, at least three, maybe four
strands of barbed wire, so they would only use the
top one, and the telephone signal would follow the wire
to whatever other telephone was connected down the line.

Speaker 2 (07:22):
And typically that would be, for lack of a better term, neighborhoods,
because these were neighborhoods the way we think of them.
You know, these houses were miles and miles and miles
apart from each other, these ranches and these farms, but
this network of barbed wire fencing could potentially be connected,
and you know, you might have to do something like
install a jumper to go over a road to connect

(07:43):
to the next segment of fence that might belong to
the other property, right And they would do that once
they figured out how it worked and word got around
that stuff started happening, didn't they.

Speaker 1 (07:53):
Yeah, absolutely, And we have to emphasize how useful this
was for people. They were actually building cooperatives, and this
kind of approach was not something that was foreign to
farming communities at the time. They had built cooperative irrigation
projects and things of that nature. This was another example

(08:15):
of people coming together and boom, you're able to save
a journey of miles and miles. Right, you can just
call up one of your neighbors and say, you know, hey,
keep an eye out for this lost lamb, or hey,
are we still on for Sunday dinner, you know?

Speaker 2 (08:36):
Or God forbid? You know, Grandmama has her angina. You know,
you call instead of having to send a horse or
a runner, you just call the house down the line,
and maybe there's a dock that can come a running.

Speaker 1 (08:53):
Right yeah. And that's a really great point because we
understand that even today, communication is a vital part of
rural life, you know, especially if you're isolated, you need
to have an effective means of communicating from point A
to point B. And I love how you point out
what happens in an emergency, because this system, as ingenious

(09:16):
as it is, it was imperfect, right at all.

Speaker 2 (09:20):
But just like that good old fashioned down home ingenuity
that got the system up and running in the first place,
they had to come up with interesting little fixes to
kind of deal with the imperfect nature of this whole system,
right Ben, Yeah.

Speaker 1 (09:33):
Yeah, absolutely no. In an article called before mo Bell
Rural Telephone Systems in the West by an author named C. F. Eckhart.
They noted the following rain and large bulls with raging
hormones were the nemeses of fence line telephone systems. Apparently,
it would happen not too infrequently that a bull with

(09:54):
a high threshold of pain an intense desire to quote
make the acquaintance of heifer's in the next pasture, could
just ram through the line, ram through the fence such
that it breaks the line, and then.

Speaker 2 (10:09):
Ram through the heifers.

Speaker 1 (10:10):
Ram through the heifers. Yeah, it's just rams on rams there.

Speaker 2 (10:13):
That's crazy.

Speaker 1 (10:14):
And they would have to have somebody come out and
fix that line. And that was a little bit of
an easier fix than rain.

Speaker 2 (10:21):
Yeah, it's true. You know, rain was a big problem
because it would cause the signal to dissipate, and you know,
if there was frost, they would have to wait until
the frost thought entirely to even use the system. We
did not mention though, that there would be maybe around
twenty phones connected together on one of these systems, the
size of the network. But not only that, anytime someone

(10:42):
made a call, every single phone would ring.

Speaker 1 (10:45):
That's the other problem.

Speaker 2 (10:46):
It's all a party line. They had them, like even
in the eighties, I kind of remember them. You'd have
them in your house or in a neighborhood. It was
I guess it was for fun. I can't think of
what the functional reason was to do it later, but
this was just an absolute byproduct of how this system
was did. You didn't dial anybody you know had a number,
so they would come up with these special rings for

(11:06):
a family. And the phones that we're talking about were
largely these crank generator phones. So if a family's ring
code was dot dot dash or like you know, a
long long short, you would do crank, crank, crank, you
know right.

Speaker 1 (11:21):
This shows how even when the system was working perfectly
as intended, it had some definitive drawbacks. In a very
real sense, everybody knew what you and your neighbor were
talking about, and it was considered, especially in these larger
communities with maybe twenty phones or something, it was considered
a common courtesy not to pick up the phone and

(11:43):
eavesdrop if you knew somebody was calling the Jorgensens and
not your house. But as it turns out, quote unquote,
listening in became a very very popular activity.

Speaker 2 (11:54):
Yeah, it's true, and I did read somewhere. It was
actually in a comment section on a Gizmoto art call
about this called barbed wire fences were an early DIY
telephone network. Folks were talking about more the party line
systems of you know, more recent years. But if anything,
that would just be a kind of higher quality version

(12:15):
of what we're talking about here. And apparently the more
people that are on the line, the signal starts to diminish,
kind of like making a copy of a copy of
a copy, I guess. And you could kind of tell
when someone picked up because the signal dropped a little bit,
so kind of people would be like, get off the line,
who's on the line? You know that kind of stuck
you hear that a lot.

Speaker 1 (12:38):
This cooperation made it a little easier for them to
detect where a break was in the line. Possibly yeah, right,
and that's how they could find the bull. I was
going to say, the bull breaks, yeah, if we're going
to make something up. But rain was a little bit
more perfidious because it could soak the fence post as well, sure,
and to combat that they needed to have insulate, so

(13:00):
you see like porcelain tubes of actually The weird answer
is that when especially in Texas, when a huge thunderstorm
came through, it would ground the entire system until things
dried out. But they solved it by working with saluts,
the discarded beer bottles, whiskey bottles and so on. Glass

(13:21):
is a great electrical insulator, and so they would collect
bottles from the saloons, break the necks off, whittle wooden
pegs to fit into the broken bottlenecks, drill holes in
the pegs, and these glass insulators got nailed defence posts,
and then you could string the wire along the insulator
so that you could reliably communicate, you know, but then

(13:43):
you know, it's still not perfect, but it sounds pretty cool, right, Yeah.

Speaker 2 (13:47):
And there's more fun little tricks too. Were talking about emergencies.
They'd have a particular ring for emergencies. They even started
treating it almost like a pyrate radio network in a
way where they would have if you're maybe someone in
your household played the banjo and you had a little
string band or something like that, you would play into

(14:08):
the phone and people you know that listening in on
that would be welcome, you know, and that would be
almost like a community engagement kind of thing, you know,
coming together with your neighbors over these at times quite
large distances between households.

Speaker 1 (14:21):
Yeah, and there are some heartwarming accounts of you know,
the one guy, the first guy or first family in
the neighborhood to get a radio turning into like the
radio hour every nine pm. Here's the up to minute stories.

Speaker 2 (14:35):
Right.

Speaker 1 (14:35):
Also, wait, I forgot no, we should talk Turkey, we
should talk prices. Because this wasn't a thing that incorporated
long distance phone call charges. It didn't have any weird
hidden fees. You didn't really have to sign, you know,
a binding through your contract.

Speaker 2 (14:52):
It's like when I every now and then say, you know,
I bene thic, I'm going to start a cell phone company.
You do say, though, and then you're like, Noel Nolan, no,
all my friends, the time for that is passed. But
not during this time. This was literally like a from
the ground up, no pun intended, maybe a little intended
a little bit DIY telecommunications network.

Speaker 1 (15:13):
Yeah. By one estimate, service ran for a mere three
to eighteen dollars a year, and that was way less
than the regional phone companies charged and the labor for
maintaining these networks was supplied by volunteers, because often if
there's barboire already, they would be repairing it in the
course of regular farms.

Speaker 2 (15:32):
Who are you paying?

Speaker 1 (15:33):
Though?

Speaker 2 (15:33):
I don't understand that. I thought it was just kind
of a cooperative, like a collective kind of thing.

Speaker 1 (15:38):
Right, So this would vary from cooperative to cooperative organization organization.
Let's look at one example in the Montana East Line
Telephone Association. It sounds pretty classy, right, it does. They're
eight members, seems legit. Oh okay, But they had a
leader who identified himself as HBS in farming publications, and

(16:04):
he said that he would be able to get them
connected for a fee of twenty five dollars each, So
that three to ten or whatever, that's a one time feet.

Speaker 2 (16:13):
That's cool. See, Ben, I was picturing this all wrong.
I was picturing that it was a straight up cooperation
between those families that lived in closest proximity. But I
realized now that this began to have a much wider reach,
didn't they.

Speaker 1 (16:25):
Yeah, yeah, And you're absolutely right now, maybe it was
it first, Yeah, yeah, absolutely, And at first was also
probably a calculation of necessity more than novelty. Right, So
in the case of the Montana East Line Telephone Association,
HBS sells the following package for about twenty five bucks each.
A telephone set with two dry batteries and a shore

(16:47):
ring condenser, a magneto, a lightning arrestor, a ground knob,
knobs and tubes, plus ten feet of interior wire and
around fifty feet of outside drop wire that could connect
to the nearest pole. And then HBS says, you know,
beyond that, like, if you're more than sixty feet away

(17:07):
from where that nearest pole or wire is, beyond that,
you can use any kind of wire you have. And
people did have wire laying around, you know, probably barbed wire.

Speaker 2 (17:16):
Yeah. In fact, and this it started to catch on
that this was a valuable commodity in these unwired traditionally areas.
And in Arizona, in Hidalgo County, a new railroad that
had been installed, some trains killed somebody's bull, and the

(17:39):
railroad company as payment, allowed this local network to use
some of their railroad sign posts as jumpers for the
phone network.

Speaker 1 (17:49):
Oh cool, you know what, that's one of the few
times that we have seen a railroad company portrayed in
a positive light.

Speaker 2 (17:56):
Yes, It's a really good point, and think about that.
And you know, as it got bigger and bigger with
these associations like you're talking about, things like switchboards even
came into the picture, didn't they.

Speaker 1 (18:05):
Yeah, they would be typically in a store in the
local town area, or often in somebody's kitchen, and then
they would have switchboard operators who had limited hours, right,
so you would ring into the switchboard and then asked
to be connected somewhere. There's another thing here. We know

(18:26):
you mentioned earlier how these took off and how they
grew quite popular at the time. By nineteen oh two,
there were more than six thousand small independent phone companies
that were actually farmers mutuals, like you know, the farming
collective or cooperative phone network.

Speaker 2 (18:44):
And you know this not only was it functional, and
we have that community aspect to it. Right. In an
article from Atlas Obscure, there's a really great quote from
a woman named Emma Marble who was a young homesteader.
We haven't really even talked about the idea of homesteading,
how this was a thing where people were given land

(19:06):
grants by the government in order to come out and
settle some of these more wily parts of the country
in the Midwest and such. Right. Emma Marble in this
article Who's a Young Homesteader in eighteen ninety nine in Arizona,
said that the lines kept loneliness at bay. Right. She said,

(19:28):
the theory was that we would answer only when our
own rings sounded, but whenever the bell rang, every woman
on the line rushed to a receiver. And speaking of
the homesteading thing, there was another use where there would
be inspections from time to time. Property inspectors were just
people like representatives from the government that would come and

(19:49):
visit these homesteads to make sure they were operating according
to the law that granted them these pieces of land.
And whenever they would, someone down the line on that
single dirt road leading between these properties would see the
inspector coming, those party lines would light up and everyone
would know so they could get to work.

Speaker 1 (20:10):
Right. Yeah, that's cool. That's an awesome fact there. And
also just to just to add, we said limited hours
about the switchboards, but I feel like we need to
be clear. This will be a good example of how
kind of ad hoc and casual this was. The switchboard
usually shut down around nine PM, so it worked from

(20:30):
like maybe five point thirty in the morning to nine pm.
It was always shut down around two or three pm
on Sunday so families could go to church. And it
was also shut down on Saturday night if there were
a dance in town. So you know, nobody, nobody had
this as a salary job in these situations, and it

(20:50):
was something that happened for the benefit of the community.
Like when the party line blows up and it's time
to it's time to at least look busy, right. Also,
I have to say the use of the phrase party line,
it still always reminds me of those commercials from the
nineteen nineties where they're like call and chat with interesting people.

Speaker 2 (21:11):
Like nine hundred numbers.

Speaker 1 (21:13):
So I could never when I was a kid, I
could never tell if these were, you know, nine hundred
numbers of a romantic or sexual nature, or if there
were really people who are just calling to be like, hey,
what's up. N name's Derek. I just got to town.

Speaker 2 (21:25):
I want to talk to Derek. See it was awesome.
All right. Well, since we've gotten to the modern party lines,
let's talk about a little interesting tidbit that I saw
about a modern use of this. You had talked about
how the parallel between this time with having a hard
time getting infrastructure in place in more rural areas comparing
to that we're experiencing now with other countries that are

(21:48):
very hard to get to where there's a lot of poverty,
and even somewhat you know, you're seeing issues with getting
high speed internet in more rural parts of the United States.
So I was reading this article on gizmoto that I'm
in earlier, and in the comments I found some fantastic
if I can't confirm this, but I just want to
read this to you and see what you think. User
chilloncel says, I attended a Cisco networking class where the

(22:10):
instructor talked about this sort of thing. He's been deploying
network equipment throughout Africa and in some places there was
no way to keep copper wires from being stolen, so
in at least one installation they ran X point twenty
five over barbed wire. X point twenty five is a
standard like a packet, a wide area network, you know,

(22:31):
like a very rudimentary Internet.

Speaker 1 (22:33):
Basically, that's amazing and I can't imagine a better testament
to the brilliance of this sort of application.

Speaker 2 (22:40):
A wire's a wire, A wire's a wire.

Speaker 1 (22:42):
I hope this is deployed in more areas of the world.
In the case of the US barbed wire telephone system,
we know that it persisted much much longer then you
might typically imagine.

Speaker 2 (23:02):
In the seventies, especially some places in like Texas. I
want to say, yes.

Speaker 1 (23:05):
Yes, you're spot on. So there's Eckhart in this article
has a pretty pretty chuckle worthy description of his difficulty
calling his parents, who still used a Barbier system into
the seventies. So this is definitely rural Texas. He said
his parents lived in a place called Liberty Hill, north

(23:27):
and west of Austin, and outside the system, their own
cooperative system, their phone number was get this thirty seven.
Just that that has.

Speaker 2 (23:37):
Been there with the thirty seventh couple to get the phone.

Speaker 1 (23:39):
I guess, so, yeah, you're probably right actually, And inside
their Barbeier system, their phone number was three longs and
a short. And when this guy was calling his parents,
he would have to ring an operator in Dallas and
tell her that he was calling Liberty Hill, Texas. She

(24:00):
would say where is it? He would say, it's in
Williamson County. It's you know here in relation to Austin.
She would say, that's airy code five to one two.
You can dial the number correct, and you would have
to say, no, believe me, I can't. I do this
all the time. And she would say what's number, and
he'd say thirty seven and she would say, sir, that's
not a telephone number. So he would have to tell

(24:20):
her to call somebody and then they would dial in.
And this the strange thing is to me though, that
these systems were able to work with the modern nineteen
seventies era telephone system. It's very cool and thus ends
the story for now. At least of the time, farmers
used barbed wire to you know, start a party.

Speaker 2 (24:41):
Line party all the time on the rural party line.

Speaker 1 (24:45):
Are we going to do some rural party line voices?
It's actually kind of tough for me to say rural.
It's like rural duror rural duror well, you did a
good job, but it sounded very unnatural. Ben It's hard
to say, like in the conversation rural duror.

Speaker 2 (24:58):
Rural yes, no matter.

Speaker 1 (25:00):
Our friend Scott Benjamin is haunted by that phrase, by
the way, I bet he is. And speaking of communication.
We can't think of a better way to close out
this episode than with a little listener mail. What do
you say, nol I love it, Ben?

Speaker 2 (25:18):
How about you go first?

Speaker 1 (25:19):
All right? Sure thing? So our first letter arrives from
Christ J. And Chris J. Says, Hey, guys, I just
got done listening to your Wild West episode and I
thought it was great. I work at an archive in
Wyoming and we hold all sorts of collections related to
the Wild West, like some papers of Buffalo Bill Cody
or Alfred Jacob Miller, who painted some of the first

(25:41):
images of the West. Myth and West, says Christ, go
hand in hand. It is so pervasive that the Wyoming
state government officially and to some of us grown worthily,
adopted the codes of the West, which is essentially the
idea of how to live like a cowboy, the mythologized version.
At least, These myths are everywhere out here, mainly because

(26:01):
it's become a source of tourism and is what people
like to see when they travel in this area. Even
though we're not all cowboys and we don't all ride horses.
For better or worse, this myth is here to stay.
Despite exhaustive efforts by many historians and archivists to dispel it.
One topic Christ says that I thought I might suggest,
along the same lines as the wild West, that is

(26:23):
actually wild West is something called the Johnson County War.
I've never heard of this in all of you.

Speaker 2 (26:29):
I have not.

Speaker 1 (26:30):
Essentially, in the late eighteen hundreds, a group of cattle
barons who are also in the government, We're trying to
take back land they perceive to be theirs, even though
it clearly belonged to settlers and small ranchers. Through a
series of events including lynchings, cattle wrestling, corruption, and outlaws,
a war broke out between the townspeople of Buffalo the
surrounding area and the cattle barons and their hired guns,

(26:52):
culminating in a siege and butch cassidy in the Sundance
Kids style shootout at a ranch house. Thought you guys
might be interested. Keep up the good and keep being ridiculous.

Speaker 2 (27:02):
You know, that makes me think of just bringing back
this mythologizing of the wild West. That's scene in the
World Tenebaums where Owen Wilson's character is doing a reading
from his book. His character you like hash, I had
to look at it. Because of this I wanted to do.
I want to read it.

Speaker 1 (27:13):
Go for it.

Speaker 2 (27:14):
The crickets and the rust beetles scuttled among the nettles
of the sage thicket. Vaminos, amigos, he whispered, and threw
the busted leather flint crawl over the loose weave of
the saddlecock, and they rode on in the friscillating dust light.

Speaker 1 (27:29):
That sounds almost like a like a dig against Cormack McCarthy.

Speaker 2 (27:34):
I love it so much, man. But thank you very much,
Chris J. For the lovely email. And I've got one more.

Speaker 1 (27:41):
Yeah, yeah, yeah, Well you know what, it's just stick with.

Speaker 2 (27:44):
His wild West theme. We've got one here from Dennis Oh.
And he says, hey, troops, just a quick couple of thoughts.
I love the show overall. By the way, while the
Wild West wasn't wild by any stretch of Hollywood, that
doesn't mean that there weren't firearms back then. And then
he gives us a link to an Economis article. He says,
the Economist article arguing against America's love affair with the
gun actually shows that gun ownership in the latter part

(28:05):
of the nineteenth century, especially on the frontier, was incredibly common.
People had guns, sure of course, they just like today,
rarely used them to kill a stranger because he liked
a different brand of rot gut than they did, or
salsa exactly. But my real reason for emailing you is
that you should totally do a credit Mobia rh podcast.
You reference thousand dollars toilets in the like credit Mobia

(28:28):
may have invented that scam in the modern era. And
that is the thing we talked about ben with crooked
contractors and the kind of things you see in the Sopranos,
with you know, laundering money by overcharging for relatively typically
inexpensive things. Absolutely, he goes on to say, what you
may not know is one of the chief congressional architects

(28:48):
of the bribery scheme was Oaks. Aims Oaks. Now there's
a name you don't hear anymore and is a good one.
I like that. I think I might name my second
born Oaks Oakes and his brother Oliver Oaks and Oliver.
It sounds like a comedy duo.

Speaker 1 (29:01):
Own thinking acoustic coffee shop band.

Speaker 2 (29:04):
Oh that's very good, like almost lady, you know, like
a Simon and Garfunkle thing Oaks and Oliver. They didn't
make it. Simon and Garfunkle overshadowed.

Speaker 1 (29:11):
They're like Faulkner and Falcon I.

Speaker 2 (29:13):
Very much like that. So Oaks and Oliver owned the
Ames Shovel Shop in Easton, Massachusetts. His roots are in Easton,
says Dennis. The Ames Shovel Shop invented the pointed tip,
curved blade shovel. Really, and it was that shovel that
built the railroad and various hand dug subways and also

(29:33):
mine gold in California. So this shovel and these brothers Aimes,
they figured into a lot of the episodes we've done
of late, don't they.

Speaker 1 (29:41):
Yeah. Absolutely, we have been on a bit of a
wild West Frontier kick. Is there is there more to
the story?

Speaker 2 (29:47):
It really is this This letter just kind of keeps
keeps giving. So he goes on to say, you had
Congressman Aims involved in the bribing scandal which overpaid for
railroad supplies such as, wait for it, the very shovels
he was selling. Further twist, the reason he did all
of this was it to pat his own pocket or
to scam the county. He was asked to take this

(30:08):
over and complete the railroad at any cost by wait
for it, Abraham Lincoln.

Speaker 1 (30:15):
Dunk dunk, dun no what it.

Speaker 2 (30:17):
Was, Abraham Lincoln. I mean it's on a question markt
Abraham Lincoln. Abraham honest Ay says, wow, it puts a
new spin on old honest Dave.

Speaker 1 (30:26):
Anybody who puts honest in their name and now is
clearly a deyscepticuling.

Speaker 2 (30:31):
Well, it's sort of like when you're like a gangster
and your name's tiny, it usually means you're a big bruiser.

Speaker 1 (30:36):
Or like the old prison joke where you know, the
toughest guy in the in the facility has a name
like smurf yeah, or baby Cakes.

Speaker 2 (30:45):
Anyway. Dennis finishes by saying the credit movie A story
is fascinating. Ames was never really vilified for it. Still
a hometown hero, and he got the railroad built. U
There is a monument to him and his brother out
near Layer of me Wyoming. Of course, several years after
it was built, they moved the railroad and has sat
alone for the last one hundred and thirty years or so.

(31:05):
That's it. Enjoy have a great weekend, Asta, bombasta and
all that.

Speaker 1 (31:10):
Dennis so thank you so much for writing to us, Dennis,
and you as well, Chris. We immensely appreciate it. And
this concludes our listener mail, but not our show. If
you would like to learn more about barbed wire, specifically,
check out an episode of Stuff of Genius about barbed
weiers avenor Little Easter Egg for you. It's voiced by

(31:33):
our own longtime best friend Matt Frederick. Tell you know what,
Tell them that we sent you.

Speaker 2 (31:42):
Yell that at the laptop screen. He'll hear you in
his heart. But for now we're gonna have to ride
off into our own friscalating dusk light. But in the meantime,
you can write to us at Ridiculous HowStuffWorks dot com.
You can hit us up on social media or we
are Ridiculous History on Instagram, Facebook. The other stuff that
the Ben's friendster is popping off, man, let.

Speaker 1 (32:03):
Me tell you, Yeah, it's then your GEO cities.

Speaker 2 (32:05):
That's what I hear. And of course we'd like to
thank our super producer, Casey Pegrim for putting up with
us to the bitter end.

Speaker 1 (32:13):
Our long suffering producer, as well as our regular contributor
Lori L. Dove, who wrote ridiculous history, ranchers hacked barbed
wire fences to create phone lines, and our composer, I
like that we can see you A Heart composer, Alex Williams,
the incomparable, and most importantly you, friends and neighbors, fellow

(32:34):
farm Cooperative fans. Thanks for giving us a listen.

Speaker 2 (32:42):
For more podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts,
or wherever you listen to your favorite shows,

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