The shock of a livestock fence charger provides the most elementary and unforgettable demonstration of electricity. Even a dullard understands that only a hot wire and a ground wire are needed to produce a startling shock. I was 8 and my brother, Don, was 5 years old when we realized the great possibilities of this simple phenomenon.
Further research proved that a wet cement floor is a perfect ground and a metal bedstead a perfect hot wire if properly rigged. It's strange, but just such a setting existed on our farm south of Perryton, Texas.
The harvest crews slept in iron bedsteads (the hot wire) in the bunk-house, which had cement floors (the ground wire). After each day's work, all the men swam in the huge stock tank nearby and dried off after coming into the bunkhouse (wet floor equals a better ground). Unfortunately for them, my brother and I knew where a freshly charged 6-volt battery was located, as well as the new International Livestock Fence Charger hanging on a wall nearby. That's when the fun began.
First, we unwound some copper wire from an old generator. Next, while the men were away during the day, Don and I hid the battery and charger in the bunkhouse and wired the bedsteads to the charger leads, making sure all the evidence was concealed. From start to finish, the installation was professional in every aspect. I even used my never-fail tester, Don, to make sure the wire was hot. In fact, it was so full of juice that Don jumped a foot off the floor when I convinced him to touch the bedstead. Eager to see our experiment work, we couldn't wait until the men came home that night.
As usual, the tired, dirty men came in from the field at dark, donned their bathing suits and swam in the big stock tank. When Mother yelled, 'supper is ready,' they all rushed into the bunkhouse and tracked water on the floor as they went. Watching closely, I flipped the power switch with a devilish grin.
We anticipated success, but nothing on the level we achieved. As young boys, we were astonished at their antics - jumping, yelling, cursing, falling on the slick floor and wrecking the room in mere seconds. As the prank turned catastrophe, we became scared and fled into the darkness of night where we hid in tall weeds out by the mailbox on the country road. As flashlights probed every sanctuary around the farm for hours, we feared for our lives.
The angry and electrocuted men hunted us like wild animals until bedtime. When the bunkhouse lights finally went out, Don and I sneaked into the house and used Mother for protection. Luckily, she thought the prank was funny, and we didn't get into trouble.
Our exile continued for three days until the ranch hands forgot their jolting experience. Needless to say, we didn't conduct any more electrical experiments for a long while. FC
- Delbert Trew is a freelance writer, retired rancher and supervisor of the Devil's Rope Museum in McLean, Texas. Contact him at Trew Ranch, Box A, Alanreed, TX 79002; (806) 779-3164 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org