Texas museum devoted to barbed wire

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Sitting along a lonely stretch of highway in the Texas Panhandle, McLean isn't so small that you'd miss this hamlet in the blink of an eye.

It would take probably five or six blinks to blow through this town, which has never recovered from being bypassed by Interstate 40.

McLean's heyday coincided with Route 66's, when a seemingly endless stream of vehicles sped through. Each day, thousands of motorists drove by a large cinder-block building on the south side of the highway. Inside, a mostly female work force turned out brassieres for Sears.

The bra factory shut down in 1970, a presage of the hard times that would come with the opening of the new four-lane several years later.

"I think probably for the town of McLean, Route 66 being closed was worse," recalls Delbert Trew, a retired rancher. "Within a month or two after it closed, McLean lost 16 businesses. They were mostly filling stations and garages."

The town limped along, and civic leaders such as Trew realized the battered economy needed help.

"We didn't have anything to draw people, to advertise or brag about," Trew says of those lean years.

He settled on a museum, which opened in the bra factory in 1990 with a theme so obscure that it stumped a contestant — a Texan, no less — on "Jeopardy."

"The Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas, is devoted to the history of this material," read the Daily Double answer. The contestant just shook his head.

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