Me and my electric fence

Back in the spring, I think it was April, I installed a three-dimensional electric fence to keep the deer out of my garden, especially my secret strawberry patch, which was never really a secret to anyone, let alone the deer. Why I call it a three-dimensional electric fence will be explained later on.

Anyway, Shark’s boys, The 747 and Lamppost Head, were with me and I was explaining to them how it works.

“Don’t touch the string or you’ll get a shock, because electricity wants to go to ground,” I began.

They looked puzzled.

“Ground. Earth. Mother Earth. Everything loves the Earth and wants to go to it. Throw a rock into the air and it comes back to earth.”

“That’s gravity.”

“Gravity, electricity, same thing. Einstein thought so, though he never could prove it.”

“Did Einstein invent electricity?”

“No, Benjamin Franklin did. Rather, he discovered it by flying a kite in an electric storm. Lucky for him he used string instead of wire. String doesn’t conduct electricity.”

“Your electric fence is string.”

“String with wire in it. See?” and I touched the string to show them.

“Yeeeeeooooow!!!” I jumped back three feet. “Wow, that hurt a lot more than I thought it would. But that’s the point of an electric fence. It hurts you but it doesn’t kill you. Usually.”

“Can I touch it?” asked The 747, not waiting for an answer as he touched the string.

“Ouch. That didn’t hurt much.”

“I’m a better conductor than you are.”

I resumed the lesson.

“This electric fence uses direct current, or DC, which only goes one way through the wire. It is much safer than alternating current, or AC, which goes back and forth many times a second. In the barn, the string with wire in it is connected to the electric fence unit, which is plugged into the AC outlet.”

“You said it uses DC,” pointed out Lamppost Head, the thoughtful boy. He thinks. The 747 does. Or, thinks and does anyway.

“Right! The electric fence unit converts the AC electricity into DC so it won’t kill the farmer’s cows as a way of keeping them in the pasture. Thomas Edison, who patented the electric light, held the patents on direct current devices. He once electrocuted stray animals with alternating current to demonstrate that it wasn’t safe.”

“He doesn’t sound like a nice man.”

“He wasn’t. All his employees did the work and he took the credit. He was fighting a business war against Nikola Tesla, a genius who held the patents on alternating current stuff.”

“Who won?”

“Tesla, then, but DC hung around and now that’s what powers computers, phones, even electric cars. But we’re getting off the subject. See here, there are two actually two fences: a tall one on the inside with two wires, and a short once three feet away on the outside, with one wire. It’s a new thing: string wire and plastic step-on posts that are simple to install, and an outside fence that messes with deer’s heads. Instead of a two-dimensional fence they just jump over, it has depth, the third dimension. They can’t handle it. Look here, the inside fence isn’t even connected right now because there’s a ground someplace.”

And I grabbed the inside fence wire to show them.


“Grandpa, are you faking?” asked The 747, and he grabbed the wire.

“Yeeeeeooooow!!!” he yelled, jumping back three feet. But he was still smiling.

“Try it,” he told his brother.

“I’m good,” said Lamppost Head.

(Fred Miller’s third book, “A Dead Carp on Shadyside Ave.” is $10, available locally at Calcutta Giant Eagle, Pottery City Antique Mall, Museum of Ceramics, Frank’s Pastry, Connie’s Corner Restaurant, and Davis Bros. pharmacies.)


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