Friday, May 27, 2016

Flashback Friday: Don't Pee On the Electric Fence

With Memorial Day coming up and summer just around the bend, my thoughts often turn to my glory days in youth ministry. Today I remember wisdom learned while serving as a summer camp counselor at Quaker Lake Camp between 1977-1983. This post first appeared in 2011. May the wisdom imparted on this Flashback Friday change your life the way it did mine...

Quaker Lake Staff, around 1981...I think...
Since the dawn of time (or so it seems) campers and staff at Quaker Lake Camp in Climax (Yes, that's really the name of the little town. Imagine working there as a college student then going back to school in the Fall and telling all of your friends that you spent the entire summer in Climax. Crass, I know- but that joke never got old...) NC have gathered on Sunday nights during the summer for the dreaded Orientation. This 6 hour meeting (OK, not really- but it often seemed like it) was a a time for meeting the staff, going over schedules and activities, and for learning safety procedures. All of it was necessary to ensure a smooth week of camp. But only the safety procedures made the staff laugh...

Campers were told to beware of lightning and to get away from water and take refuge in buildings. Good advice- except in my early years the cabins were mostly metal screens, which when wet were not exactly safe havens from the storms. But that was better than the "What to do in case of a tornado" instructions. Because the buildings would have offered no resistance to high winds in those days, had there ever been (and thank God there wasn't) a tornado we were to go the nearest ditch and lie down in it. Get low. Also get wet (the ditches were all by the lake and always full of skunky water) and quite possibly snake bitten. Personally, I would have headed for the concrete block outhouse and taken my chances. And finally, there was a discussion of what to do in case of a fire. Neal Thomas, camp director during my years as a camper and staff member, was also a volunteer fireman. He knew his stuff. And every week he would tell us all that in case of a fire anywhere at camp, we should all report to the softball field- a large grassy area located between the pool and crafts hut. Neal would barely get those words out of his mouth when someone- usually a camper, occasionally a smart-mouthed staff member- would pose the obvious question. "Neal- what if the softball field is on fire?" And we would all laugh hysterically. It's not a stupid question- it's just that we heard it every week. But even with going over all of those safety procedures each and every week, not once did anyone ever tell the boy campers not to pee on the electric fence...

A quick explanation- as I think has been mentioned before, behind the boy's cabins was a cow pasture. Separating the cows from the camp was a barbed wire fence with a small electric charge running through it. Campers were never told about the fence, because there was no need for them to go anywhere near it. Well...only one reason.

It was a dark, spooky 25 yard walk from the boy's cabins to the boy's bath house- even farther from my home in Cabin #4. If a camper woke up in the middle of the night and needed to use the restroom, it was a daunting task to go by yourself. Some went anyway. Many a camper just held it the rest of the night. A few would try to go right outside the cabin- but you could hear them, so it wasn't very sneaky. I even caught one kid trying to pee through a hole in the wooden floor of our cabin. But an unlucky few went out behind the cabin- far enough away to urinate in peace, but not nearly as far as the outhouse. There was just one problem with that location. As Mr. Wizard or Bill Nye the Science Guy would tell you, water conducts electricity- and so does pee. When these young fellows would let it flow behind the cabin, they often hit the electric fence. The charge would run up the stream to their body- to one specific appendage- and give them quite a shock! :) It wasn't enough to really hurt them, but it was plenty of juice to wake them up and elicit a good scream. And of course, break the cabin counselors into hysterical laughter. It was a long summer. You found entertainment anywhere you could!

Quaker Lake has undergone a great deal of renovation  and remodeling over the past decade, and I doubt seriously that the electric fence has been "live" in a very long time. But in a world full of advice on how to stay safe and how to avoid injury, I wish to put into writing a policy that should have been handed down many years ago. Don't pee on the electric fence. Words to live by...

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous9/14/2011

    Great story, and a great book title. Which, by the way, you need to write. I have learned something useful today! LOL -Chris Cooper

  2. Anonymous9/14/2011

    This post reminds me of that show "Ren and Stimpy", they had a game called "Don't Whiz on the Electric Fence". It's like a real live version!

    Jen aka Bob

  3. This post has changed my life! Thanks, Carl!

  4. I had forgotten that show completely, Jen. Good call! And Jason...well I guess that just goes to show you never know who your writing will inspire! LOL

  5. Anonymous9/14/2011

    Interesting and insightful...reminded me of an episode of mythbusters regarding a train track w/ an electric current & the same issue.


Thanks for reading,and thanks for your comment!