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picket rope / pin / line

n. A stake sharpened or pointed, used in fortification and encampments. A narrow board pointed, used in making fences; a pale or paling. To fasten to a picket. v.t. To fortify with pickets or pointed sticks. To inclose or fence with narrow, pointed boards. To fasten to a picket. (Webster, 1882) — Webster, 1882

The parties who picket their cows so near the track west of town that engineers slack up for fear of running into them, will do well to remove them. The Superintendent will be after them if they do not. — The De Smet Leader, 1887

A picket refers to a stake or pointed stick. In the Little House books – as described in Little House on the Prairie – a picket pin was a metal rod pounded into the ground and used to tether an animal. A rope, lariat, or line was tied from the swivel hook at the top of the pin to the animal’s halter, allowing movement and the ability to graze in a circle as large as the line allowed. The pin was moved to fresh grass periodically.

Picketing was necessary to keep an animal from wandering when there were no fences to do so. However, Laura Ingalls Wilder writes that unweaned cattle and horses would stay near their mothers and therefore needed no picket pin or rope of their own.


Picket Pin and Rope. When neither halter nor hobbles are available an animal may be “picketed” out to graze. The picket pin and rope shown in the illustration cost about $1.00. For general purposes the rope should be not less than 30 feet long and fitted with a strong snap at either end to facilitate fastening it into and removing it from the pin or hobble. The pin should be 15 inches long, and equipped with a swivel link at the upper end. — Jay L. Taylor, Handbook for Rangers and Woodsmen (London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd., 1917), 26.


Below is an early advertisement for two types of picket pins:


picket picket (SSL 15, 20, 29; LTP 5; THGY 33) – A narrow board pointed, used in making fences; a pale or paling. To fasten to a picket.
     fence (FB 13; PG), see fence – A fence made with pickets.
     picket line / picket-line (LHP 3-5, 7-8, 14, 22, 26; BPC 1, 27; SSL 6)
     picket pin / picket-pin (LHP 3, 17; SSL 10; LTP 2, 4, 23; PG)
     picket rope / picket-rope (LHP 3, 7; SSL 6, 29, 31-32; LTP 2, 8, 22; THGY 32; PG)

picket-pin gopher, see gopher