The Barbarians

A Chicago businessman charters a plane to fly over Texas ranch land while he scans the ground through binoculars, looking for valuable samples. A Fort Scott, Kans., man fights off hissing rattlesnakes on his farm to recover a small piece. A tourist from Camdenton, Mo., wanders through a live minefield in Israel intently snipping specimens. All of these "barbarians," as they call themselves, are hooked on one of the more unlikely but fast-growing hobbies in the U.S.: barbed-wire collecting.

Lured by the dubious romance of the rusty wire, some 65,000 collectors are...

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