January 19th…“DID YOUR FARMER FATHER EVER DO SOMETHING YOU THOUGHT WAS SCARY?”
Glistening in the morning sunrise, like diamonds in a row, were the crystal dew drops that hung from the taut wires of our farm’s electric fence-line. Having been invented long ago and modified for farm use in the mid 1930’s, electrically-charged fence-lines were and are ubiquitous to farmers almost world wide. When dealing with the control of Holstein cows weighing an average of 1,300 pounds each, an electric fence is an effective means to JOLT them back into a cow lane or pasture area. After having their nose, or rump, zapped a few times, that little skinny piece of wire has the animal trained to avoid any future experiences, at all costs, and stay within their pasture or cow lane.
For those unaware of farming ways, you can be assured that safety factors were weighed when developing this modern electric marvel. Any good farmer loves his animals and would never want to see them actually injured. Not only does he care about them from a kind and godly heart, but he also knows of the investment each animal was, at the time of purchase, and can be when it comes time for marketing. True, it is an electric shock that is administered to the bovine (or any living thing, for that matter) that touches the wire intentionally or by accident. The magic of this safety feature is that the shock lasts for only a second or two, and then, the fence line goes dead for a second or two. I had found this fact out personally when I was about 3 or 4 years old and my father, Russell, told me to “test” an electric fence with a blade of wet grass………….BUZZZZTTT!!!!, went the electrical shock up my little farmer boy’s arm and locked it tight for a second or two. Daddy laughed. I cried my eyes out! That old stinker teaser!!! 🙂 From that intended learning moment, on Dad’s part, I forever have had an intense respect for the power of electricity!!
Factors in farm life involve the passage of time, grass growth that touches the fence-line (causing it to “ground out”), livestock movements, etc.. Those components combined, necessitate that a farmer needs to walk his fence-lines, from time to time, to check for damage and make repairs. It was on one of those beautiful Minnesota summer days that Dad invited my little sister, Candi, and myself to accompany him on one of those check and repair journeys around our farm property. Meadowlarks and Red-Winged Blackbirds sang a chorus to us as the three of us walked along our cow-lane while Dad inspected fence and/or made repairs as we sauntered along.
Eventually, we ambled down to the large pasture land that bordered our southern farm property line. Brush Creek was the flowing body of water that actually marked most of our property, but there was a spot or two where our farmland also existed on the other side of the creek. In order to keep our cows in where they belonged, a series of electrical fence wires had to cross that liquid line of demarcation.
Now our tough n wiry Norwegian farmer father was one of those hardy souls who could easily take the “hit” of an electric shock and keep on keeping on. Oh sure, Dad would sometimes blurt out some colorful language when he’d get zapped, but he’d just buckle down his efforts and get the job done of repairs to a light switch, wall receptacle, or in this case, our farm’s electric fence-line. On this particular day, though, our daddy had some fun in mind. Wading into the middle of Brush Creek, Dad intentionally grabbed onto the “hot” electric fence wire that went across the creek to keep the cows on our side of the property. As mentioned earlier, with each pulse of electrical charge that zapped through the fence-line, Dad’s entire body would jerk in massive contractions. Candi and I were held in awe as we saw Dad giggle and try to talk to us through each shock wave that hit his body that was now even more grounded, than usual, by him standing in the water up to his thighs.
“He’aayyy, kids!!! Wha’eye don’t you co’me down here and ho’ld my hand??!!!” Little sister and I looked at each other in amazement, as we stood safely on the shore of the creek and called back, “No WAYYY, Dad, we wouldn’t touch you with a ten foot pole!!!” Even Dad’s responsive laughter was “cut in two” by the next shock wave that pulsed through his body. Having had his jovial time with us, our daddy simply let go of the electric fence-line during one of the system’s off moments and came walking out of the creek bed laughing a good belly laugh at the whole funny, yet scary incident. That was one “highly charged” incident to witness for this Norwegian Farmer’s Son. 😉