By Norris Chambers

Some of the foolish things we did while growing up are reasonable enough for me to tell without being ashamed. But this escapade is one I have never felt comfortable relating. It was not only foolish but it was dangerous.

A Model T Ford had a magneto arrangement where permanent magnets mounted on a large disc on the crankshaft passed by a string of stationary coils and produced a voltage for the vehicle’s lights and ignition. The magneto was switched in after the car had been started with the six volt battery and powered the electrical system. The voltage was much higher than the six volts and produced a
stronger spark and brighter lights.

            This technical information is not intended to produce a Model T electrician but to inform the reader where the nice thin copper ribbon came from that we used for so many things. The coils were wound with the thin copper ribbon, about a quarter inch in diameter. There were many feet of the ribbon in a coil and several coils in the magneto ring.

            One of the things Clifton and I used the wire for is not something that anyone else should attempt. The only reason we did it was because we didn’t know any better and were willing to try anything to create a little excitement or produce some pretty fireworks.       

            About four or five miles north of our country domain and up toward the head of our creek a public road ran east and west. On our side of the road there was an electric power line. There were three wires on cross arms mounted atop high creosoted poles. We had gone that far hunting possums and had seen it a few times from the road.

            Our idea was to take a long piece of copper ribbon, tie a rock on the end of it and throw it over the wires. We knew enough about electricity to know that there would be a nice flash when the wire melted. We also knew enough to stand far enough away to avoid any contact with the wire as it hit the high voltage lines.

            One nice dark night we unwound two of the coils, cleaned and sanded the wire and left on a north-bound possum hunt. There were five of us in the group and with the help of our carbide hunting lamps we eventually arrived at our destination. There were no houses near and no visible traffic on the road. This was an ideal time to try our fireworks idea.

            Clifton picked up a suitable rock and carefully tied it to the end of a twenty five foot section of the wire. We all stood back and he gave it a nice toss toward the three wires swinging slightly in the breeze. The rock went over the top of the target and the wire draped over the two side wires.

            The fireworks exceeded what we had expected and with a flashing and snapping sound the whole area was lit up brighter than any roman candle or flash bomb could have managed. The display was surely one that could be seen for miles. In our displays we always tried to entertain the whole north end of the county.      

            “Why don’t we use two wires?” Clifton asked. “That would double the fireworks.”  I agreed and we hurriedly rigged two pieces of the wire to a four foot length of wood that we easily found in the brush. I straightened the wires and Clifton got between them, holding the wooden pole. He bent backwards and pitched the string gently toward the wires.

            Again we were thrilled by a brilliant display of flashing and snapping. But a little extra was added to this attempt. One of the wires burned and the trailing end hung to one of the wires on the side. The free end slashed back and forth a few times and then hit the tall pole supporting the power lines. There was another big display of fireworks when the wire brushed against a wire that came down the side of the post. No doubt this was a grounding strap.

            When the main show was over the upper portion of the post was blazing. While we stood there amazed at what had happened the blaze grew larger and it was evident that the post was doomed to be destroyed.

            Clifton suggested that it was time for us to move on. I agreed and we started back toward home base.

            As we had anticipated, several people over a wide area saw the fireworks and those with electrical service lost their power shortly afterward. One little town had to shut down its night life because there was no power. The newspaper in that town had quite a write-up about the disaster and those who had seen the flashes wondered what had happened.

            Our thrill-seeking party kept quiet. The only reason I am telling it now is because I may be the last survivor. It was FUN but I do no recommend it to other fun-hunters! Confine your fun to possum hunting and bumble bee fighting.