Douglas L Perry, The Author blog

December 19, 2008

Stories from the Midwest

Filed under: Stories — douglaslperry @ 11:51 pm
Tags: , , , , , , ,

I’m one of those transplants from the midwest living in California. I grew up in a dinky little town in Eastern South Dakota, right near the border to Minnesota. While there are still some things that I miss, there are lots that I don’t. One of the things that I don’t miss is the winter weather.

When you are a kid, winter weather is great. You get to frolic in the snow, play hockey on the ice, get your tongue stuck on the monkey bars when it’s really cold, basically all the things that are good about cold weather. 

As an adult, cold weather is a royal pain in the ass. You may have to shovel snow to get the car out, scrape the windshield before you can drive, and warm up the car for 20 minutes so that your teeth don’t chatter while you’re driving. 

My hometown is a university town and I got my BSEE degree there. Most of my classmates stayed on campus. The cold weather didn’t bother them too much, other than they had to dress warmer. Living at home, I drove to class. 

One morning in particular I remember an nasty ice storm swept through during the early morning hours. The streets were treacherous as I tried to park my big American car near class. I found a spot about two blocks away and set off to walk the rest of the way. 

The experience of walking to class was incredible. The trees looked like living crystals as the bright sunlight shone through the thin layer of ice that covered their branches. My breath made a light mist as I exhaled the pristine air. The sunlight warmed my coat as snow crunched under my boots. It was the perfect morning to be outside and I didn’t want it to end. 

As I came around a corner danger lay in my path. It wasn’t a slippery downslope, or an out of control car, but a large black wire that lay on the ground near the sidewalk. The wire was about the size of a large garden hose and broken in two. At first I thought it was just a telephone cable, but as I got near, I heard a sound like frying eggs. A small blue plasma of electrically charged air flowed from the center of the wire into the ground below. Seven thousand volts of electricity was taking the shortest path to ground leaving only a dangerous spark at its end. 

Working around electricity in my fathers’ electrical business I knew the danger. Touching that cable would mean nearly instant death from electrocution. As the ice around the wire slowly melted even touching the water could be lethal. I gave it a wide berth and ran the rest of the way to class as best I could given the icy conditions.

I went to the office of the first professor I could find and told him that I wanted to use his phone. When he asked why I told him what I had seen. The color nearly drained out of his face as I told him about the cable. I thought he was going to pass out. It took him a moment to gain back his composure so that he could tell me what was going on. He was the engineer that had designed the cutoff system that would kill the power to any cable that broke and lay on the ground. What I had just told him was that his system didn’t work. 

He told me he would take care of it and not to mention it to any one else, and I haven’t to this day. 

Turns out, I got an A in his class after that.


  1. I am a transplant the opposite direction. I lived in So. California and now I live in Kansas.

    Interesting post.

    Comment by rjmedak — December 19, 2008 @ 11:58 pm

  2. su6YOK Thanks for good post

    Comment by johnny — December 30, 2008 @ 7:08 pm

  3. What about snowmobiling or skiing in the Hills? I enjoy your blogs, keep on writing!

    Comment by Renee Wood — July 18, 2010 @ 7:53 pm

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