Sam Elmore


I was about eight-years-old when I began to doubt my big brother Barton's concept of the truth. Ten years later, as a student in a Class "A" Navy school, I discovered that my doubts about his veracity were totally justified. I mean, when somebody that's full grown tells his eight-year-old brother something ('specially if the boy already thinks his big brother knows EVERTHING).....Wa'al, the kid is naturally gonna believe him.....right?

The Navy school taught basic electricity. What I learned in electrical school proved that Barton was NOT your normal, run-of-the-mill liar. Naw-SIR! He was a bonafide world-class EXPERT in prevarication. It happened like this:

It was one-a them chilly, low-cloud, drizzly kind of days, where everybody (with a grain of sense) stayed indoors. That led to Mama and Papa being a little "on the nerve" with us three young brothers fussin' and wrestlin' with each other inside the house. Papa was hard-pressed to get ANY peace, in his rocking chair by the fireplace.

Barton and his family lived about half-a-mile up the road from us. He made his presence known that day by stomping the mud off his boots at the front steps. Us boys were tickled to see him, though we saw him every day. On the other hand, Papa was DELIGHTED; because the first thing Barton asked Papa was: "could he "borrow" us boys for a while?"

Not only was it all right, Papa declared, it was a pure-dee BLESSING. He threw some more wood on the fire, squirmed down in his rocker with a contented sigh, and wiggled his bare toes on the deer-skin hearth rug.

Mama decided that "the baby" (Baucum) was too young to go out in such weather, but she bundled me and Todd (Barge) up to our noses, and shoved us out the kitchen door behind Barton. He'd brought his single-barrel .410 shotgun. That cold drizzle didn't seem too bad, at first; just the sort of conditions that Papa called "pee-new-moan-yuh" weather.

The three of us brothers meandered through the woods; laughing and having a good time. There was no game to be seen anywhere (unlike us, the animals were smart enough to den up in such weather). After long, constant begging on my part, Barton finally allowed me tote the shotgun. We came out of the woods into a plowed field, about a quarter-of-a-mile from the house.

That gumbo mud would ball up on my boots, and I'd fall behind the others while I scraped it off; then run to catch up. The last time I caught up, they were standing by a fence of some kind. It had metal posts with insulators, and one strand of wire, an eighth-of-an-inch thick: electric fence. When we listened close, we could hear the surge of electricity comin' through the wire.....Thuuung! Thuuung!

Barton raised one leg, straddled the wire, and stepped over; Todd did likewise. Barton told me to pass the shotgun over. I handed it across to Todd. There they stood.....on the other side of the 'lectric fence, an' me on this'n. I wasn't big enough to straddle the wire like they'd done, so I dropped to my "all-fours" to crawl under.

"Whoa, Buddy!.....don't ye' do THAT, now!", Barton warned.

He had such a serious look on his face, I just froze where I was.

"What-sa matter?, I asked.

"Don't you hear that sound comin' down the wire?", he asked.

"Unh-hunh.....I hear it", I answered, still on my hands and knees.

"Wa'al, that's them VOLTS shootin' from the wire down to the ground; you crawl up under there, boy, an' it'll EAT YOU ALIVE!"

That got my undivided attention. Thuuung! Thuuung! I could hear that wire pulsing. Since I'd heard it the first time, it seemed like it had got a whole lot LOUDER.

"What'm I gon' do?", I whined.

"Wa'al, you'll have to come acros't the top, like we did", Barton advised. "Gimme a minute to figger this out."

I got to my feet and stood there: wet, cold, and startin' to shiver a little; partly from the cold, but mostly because I was on the wrong side of a 'lectric fence, and didn't know how I was gon' get to the other side without being "eat alive."

"Okay", said Barton, "here's what ye' do. Come on down here 'tween the posts; ye' see where the wire's got some slack in it?"

The wire did appear to sag a LITTLE bit between the posts, but it was still WAY too high for me to step over, like they had. I cautiously edged my way down to where the wire was the lowest.

"Now, then, Buddy", Barton said; ".....listen to me. Ye' hear?"

"Yeah, I hear ye'."

He reached in his overall pocket and come out with a big coin.

"You see this-here silver dollar?", he asked, holding it up in his fingers.


"Wa'al, it's made out of pure-dee silver, and that stuff won't conduct 'lectricity.....okay?"

"What-ye' mean, CON-duck?"

"It won't let them VOLTS come through, that's what. Silver KILLS 'lectricity..... see-what-I-mean?"

"Yeah, I reck'n so", I answered, still somewhat dubious about it. But, this was my big BROTHER talkin', and he knew everything.....(didn't he?)

"Now", Barton said, "I'm gon' chunk ye' this dollar....." he thumped it, and I caught it out of the air.

"Jes' stand up alongside the fence", he explained, "push the wire down with that silver dollar, and step over like me an' Todd done; ye' got it?"

I didn't even bother to answer him. After he'd explained it like that, it sounded plumb simple. I don't know how frequent the pulses were; but they were far enough apart for me to get the wire pushed down with that silver dollar, and get a-STRADDLE of it, before the next pulse ZAPPED me between the legs!

That class "A" Navy school I mentioned earlier? Wa'al, that's where I learned (ten years too late) that just about every electrical contactor ever MADE has a silver coating, because silver is the BEST conductor of electricity known to man!

Barton still affirms that the SMARTEST thing he did, that whole DAY, was to relieve me of the shotgun.....BEFORE he put me a-straddle of that 'lectric fence.