Electricity and children do not mix.
It happened after the GREAT COW ESCAPE OF ‘89. You can see it has to be important since I put it all in capital letters. Let me describe the setting: a dark and stormy night, stampeding hooves, and a knocked-over fence.
Yep. The cows had made their escape into freedom. We searched everywhere for them to no avail. Some lucky farmer had extra prime rib steaks to slap on the grill come Fourth of July.
So my father had to loosen the purse strings and buy an electric fence.
Okay, for all you urbanites, an electric fence is not exactly how the words describe it. The whole fence is not feed electricity to fry helpless birds who happen to land on it. The one we had consisted of a metal wire wrapped once around plastic spools nailed to trees or wooden posts around the pasture. You do not have to attach it to an actual fence. All you need to do is set it up at a height where the penned animals cannot jump over it or crawl under it to make an escape. An extra piece of regular fencing can be helpful, but is not totally necessary. The ends of the line are affixed to a small box that feeds electricity into the wire. Ours had two settings:
Low: Arrgh! Make the pain stop! Please . . . please . . . please.
High: When you see God, ask him where Jimmy Hoffa is buried.
I lucked out (yeah, right) to help my father string the wire. Imagine spooling wire out that if you grabbed and pulled your hand across it too fast, you would get a sort of rope burn on your palm. It had to be the hottest day of summer to do this. The wire hurt my hands until there were red marks across the skin. And my oh-so-funny father turned on the power and told me to touch the fence to make sure it was working.
"Yep, it works," He declared and headed toward the house to get a beer as I laid paralyzed on the ground with a leg twitching at the air.
Oh, the fun times we kids had with that fence.
My brother would tell me to turn off the fence as he scooted underneath. Of course I did not turn it off. Even better, I told him he had a big ugly spider on his back. Frightened of spiders, my bro lifted up with his body not completely on the other side.
Me . . . on the ground with laughter rising from my throat as my brother did a face plant into the dirt.
A few days later, my brother was lurking in the bushes as I carried buckets of water up for the chickens. I made sure to turn off the wire before I ducked underneath. He snuck over and turned it back on, at the HIGH level.
There I went again to the ground . . . this time laid out twitching in a pool of water with electrical current assaulting every nerve . . . my shoes kicked off into the stratosphere and beyond as astronauts were rubbing their sore backsides wondering where the white sneakers came from. I stared at the sky and listened to angels’ singing. No, wait. They were not singing. They were laughing. And that person was no angel as I lifted to shaky knees and threw the empty buckets at my howling brother and told him to water the chickens himself.
And let us not forget the dares.
"I dare you to lick your palm and touch the fence."
"I double-dog dare you to touch the fence with your butt."
"Okay, on the count of three we will both grab the fence. Whoever lets go first has to do the chores for the next two weeks. One . . . two . . . THREE!"
Neither of us touched the wire as palms hovered over it. Instead, we had a staring match to see who was braver (or stupider) to go ahead with the dare. Then our older sister appeared out of nowhere, casually walked up, and pushed both of us into the fence.
Did I ever mention that my sister can also be a royal pain?