The field was wide and the time to traverse was long. For a chubby adolescent such as myself, this resulted in sheets of sweat running down my face as we slowly made our way. The woods on the far side of the field still looked a long way off but alas, it still grew ever closer.
We still had no clue as to where we were but we were no longer scared of the fact. Now we had slipped into adventure mode and it was more of an exploration than aimless wandering. Soon the explorers spirit paid off as we entered the woods and found a break in the monotony of empty fields. We found rusty farm equipment.
The farm was small, the barn was dilapidated. There were no lodgings of the sort. Just a small fenced off pen with a few lonely cows and and the remains of a bit of heavy farm equipment. As any twelve year old would be want to do, we set about to finding the secrets that the rusty equipment held post haste. If we could find a foot hold, we climbed to the top of every piece of metal in that small farm yard. The barn was pointless; the roof lie on a level with the foundation of the barn. Perhaps we exercised common sense for a change and decided that the barn was too dangerous to enter. More than likely, it was the simple logic that if the roof had collapsed, there couldn’t be anything cool inside.
As our combine curiosity waned we turned our attention to the pen full of cows. There weren’t many, perhaps two or three tops. The decision was made that we should try and pet the cows because after all, they are rather cute and fuzzy. I was the first to try my hand at getting though the fence to approach said cow when I was greeted with a quick jolt that gripped my wrist in a tight vice and squeezed, sending a numbness up through my arm.
“Ouch!” I exclaimed. “There’s an electric fence!”
This observation did nothing to detract the other members of the party. “Ooo, let me try!” Was Chris’s response.
At this point, we will take a brief step back. In the first entry I mentioned the hat that proudly festooned Chris’s head. The hat was a work of art. Much like a mullet, it was business in the front, party in the rear. The top was your standard painters cap that was popular for marketing promotions back in the 80′s. This hat I believe was painted up to look like a can of Skoal chewing tobacco, a fact that made Chris even more proud of his chapeau. It was for adults; it was chewing tobacco after all. The back of the hat held two long pieces of fabric that draped down over the wearers neck to block the sun. It wasn’t much to look at, but Chris was fond of this hat and I was envious. It was unlike any hat that our classmates have ever produced, one that stood out in a crowd.
And now back to the electric fence…
Chris was determined to make his way through the fence that day. He was far skinnier than I so it was logical that he would make it. He bent low and pushed one leg through the electric strand, worked his head and shoulders past the wires leaving him half way to success. Fate stepped in to foil the plan when the wind picked up to a stiff breeze.
“My hat!” Chris yelled as the thin cotton Skoal can fluttered through the cow’s pen. I stood shocked. Chris had a thick fear in his eyes as he watched his prize possession blow across the field. The cow seemed most uninterested.
“Dude…” was all I could manage.
“My hat…” Chris pouted.
When the wind finally died down, our situation failed to look as dire as it did when the hat first vacated Chris’s head. The Skoal Chapeau came to a rest a mere four to five feet inside the fence, well within our grasp. I proved to be too husky to fit between the fence without gaining a shock, Chris decided he couldn’t make it through…well to be honest, I’m not sure why Chris didn’t just climb into the pen to retrieve his hat. Instead, Chris looked around the barnyard until he found the tool he sought; a solid cast off tree branch around five feet in length.
“I bet I can get my hat with this,” Chris stated as he approached the fence.
I could find no reason to argue.
He approached the fence and fished the branch between the electric wires. So far, the plan was working out. The branch drew nearer to the hat with every breath Chris took, slowly but surely towards its intended target.
“I have it!” Chris shouted as he lifted the hat on the end of the branch.
The offset center of balance on the upraised branch was enough to spoil the plan in a single move. The weight pulled Chris’s slight frame forward, leaning him full on into the electric fence.
“Oooouch…” Chris stuttered as the low voltage slammed through his body. “This kind of hurts…”
He stood shaking with the force of the shock, his tree branch still raised into the air, his hat fluttering in the breeze. Being the close friends that we were, I stood to the side and sprung into action doing what any close friend would do when his best friend fell into an electric fence.
I laughed. I laughed hard.
“Dude…” Chris’s voice shuttered with every jolt of current. “This really kind of hurts…”
My laughter doubled its efforts.
“Dude…get me off of this thing..”
By now I was doubled over and gasping for breath.
It was when he went quiet that I finally took the situation seriously. I looked up to see him convulsing in pain. A good forty five seconds had passed. I knew very little about electric fences but I knew well enough that there was a chance I might receive a shock of my own if I were to touch him as he lay against the fence. That’s all we needed was to be found stuck together convulsing in pain.
I quickly searched the barnyard and found my own tree branch to aid in the rescue. My branch wasn’t nearly as long as the one Chris had found but it was sturdy and would do the job nicely. Without thinking I ran to where Chris was stuck along the fence and without asking if he was ready, I reared back with the tree branch and struck him full force in the stomach with all I had.
Chris flew back from the fence with a grunt, pulling his own branch and his hat along with him.
You could say the mighty Casey At the Bat saved the day that afternoon. Chris wasn’t too angry about the bruises to his midsection either. He had his hat back after all.
With the battle of the electric fence survived, we both started to grow weary of our farm investigation. We followed the dirt road that led into the farm in hopes of finding a paved road. Our hunch paid off.
Upon exiting the farm, we picked a direction on the pavement at random and started walking. Luck would have it that our choice was lucky. I started to recognize our surroundings. It wasn’t more than 10 minutes before we found ourselves walking up on the Kiwanis Camp that sat between the Twin Lakes which I knew. I new this camp because my aunt and uncle used to own the general store across the street. We were officially on our way to being saved.
The store was closed by the time we arrived but the payphone out front still worked. Surprisingly we had a quarter between the two of us and were able to make a call for a ride. The discussion was short as to who’s mom we would call. We feared the wrath of god from Chris’s mother. My mom was generally a bit more lenient and knew how to get to the general store.
“Uh..mom..” I stuttered.
“What’s the matter?” Mom was a wiz at knowing something was wrong by the tone of my voice.
“Well you see, Chris and I went for a hike in the woods…”
“Well, we sort of got lost…”
“And where are you?”
“Uncle Butch’s store.”
“Wait, where?” She stammered.
“Uncle Butch’s store.”
“That’s three miles away from Chris’s house, how did you make it all the way over there?”
“We just got a little bit lost…”
Thankfully, mom is a trooper. She was quite used to the bizarre antics of Chris and I. (Ask me sometime about the time she randomly found us in a ditch along side of the road, me holding on to Chris’s ankles as he hung over the side of a shelf of ice fishing underneath for a $10 bill.) She agreed to pick us up and ferry us back to Chris’s house.
We were both relieved to know that we had been rescued and were on our way back home. The fear of being stuck in the wilds over night had passed. Despite our traveling only around three miles, to us the journey felt more like ten. Looking back at the area on Google maps today, I laugh at the fact that were were basically one cornfield over.
Despite the relief, a new fear had begun to sink into Chris. His mother. Last she knew we were playing out back beneath the deck. She would be curious as to why we were suddenly being returned by my mother.
“Thanks for picking us, up but please don’t tell my mom.”
“Man, my mom’s going to kill me if she finds out.”
“Please, whatever you do don’t tell my mom we got lost.”
Chris repeated his plea the entire ride back to his house. Soon the moment of truth drew near as mom pulled into his driveway. Chris reluctantly climbed from the back seat of the car as mom turned to me.
“You better go with him,” she said.
I climbed out and joined him on his death march. The fear was once again heavy in his eyes as he marched to his doom. “Just don’t tell my mom we got lost and definitely don’t tell her about the electric fence,” he repeated one last time.
The front door open and there stood his mother. “Oh, I was about to come yell for you guys for lunch.”
Chris broke into an animated dance as the story of the days journey spilled forth with abandon. “Mom! We got lost, thought we were in Argos! Then we found an old farm with cows, I got stuck on the electric fence trying to get my hat then Casey figured out we were by his aunt and uncles on Cook lake!” One long deep breath… “Can Casey spend the night?”