This is a sapling growing in the wild at the edge of the Mississippi river. The thorns along the trunk are stiff and sharp. Is this a young Gleditsia triacanthos? Couldn't get close enough for sharp pictures - best my I-phone could get. And I see they're posting sideways - upright on my computer. I'm not techy enough to know how to get them to show upright, sorry.
SOLVED: Missouri sapling
I don't think that's a Gleditsia sp. Take a look at the lenticelled bark - which lenticels also appear on the "thorn" like appendages. That will not be a feature of the tripartite thorns on Gleditsia triacanthos. I went out and checked some young vigorous stems on one of the many specimens still populating the Valley. Young Honey-locust also have very light gray and somewhat striated bark on the stems.
I wonder if this could be a seedling Pyrus calleryana (worst case) or some other young Prunus sp. (best case) which are well known for thorn-like spurs and short side branches. Prunus americana and Prunus angustifolia are a couple that behave this way.
I lean toward the weedy Pear species because there appear to be some fuzzy buds on a side branch; look at the trunk nearest the bottom of the photo. The side branch is the longest one nearest the bottom left - of the sideways photo.
OK, I'll gladly go along with it not being Gleditsia, it was just a guess. But sadly we've got tons of weedy pears but these trunk thorns were so sharp - I've seen lots of pears and other prunus species but never ran across weapons like these. I noticed a striking 'speckled' appearance to the stems which didn't come out clearly in my poor pictures - don't know if that's a helpful characteristic or not. I guess I could just wait 'til spring and check it out with leaves, etc.