Summer was always the time of year with the most
telephone line outages. They usually occurred after summer storms. The
lines would get tangled, lightning would strike the poles, insulators
would break or fuses would get blown.
These problems could usually be solved in a day, or
sometimes less, by the folks who lived along the lines.
In the summer of 1958, the longest line (13 miles) went
down. The mystery was that there appeared to be no cause. There wasn’t a
storm, nobody hit a pole, and no phone was off the hook. It was just
The regular trouble shooting turned up with nothing. The
line was still out, and the 11 families were without phones. Every foot
of the line was walked, walked, and walked again. There were no tangled
The field glasses came out and pole insulators were
inspected. All the fuses, batteries, and hook ups were checked. After 10
days, the line was still out, and tempers were growing short. Other
telephone companies were contacted for possible suggestions. The only
idea was a pole-to-pole inspection.
The young volunteers and Mr. Haught started the slow
procedure of going from pole to pole, hooking up the test phone, and
seeing if the line between the poles was okay. It was a slow procedure,
but the only thing left to do. This took several more days.
Finally, there was a breakthrough. One of the poles in a
pasture field showed some damage. The farmer told the guys it was his
bull’s favorite place to rub his horns. The farmer volunteered to move
the bull to another pasture field so the pole could be replaced.
Everyone was excited. The line was going to be fixed as
soon as a pole could be brought by a wagon and the bull moved. It took
two more days and some hard work. It appeared that line 13 would be back
The test phone was hooked up, and the call was fine back
to the switchboard, but the line was still grounded to the other end.
Only four families had service. The crew was devastated. Back to
pole-to-pole inspection. After a few more days, the crew had cleared the
last big hollow and was getting back to an area of farm houses.
A kind farmer’s wife had some cookies and ice tea for
the crew. She invited them up to the house. The guys were very anxious
for a cold drink and a short break. As they discussed the long outage
and how tired they were of searching for the problem, Mr. Haught said
that it had to be something simple that they had overlooked.
The farmer joined the group for a glass of tea. He was
cleaning his rifle and chatting. Mr. Haught laughingly asked, “You
haven’t been shooting insulators or anything lately, have you, Mr.
“Nope,” said Palmer, “but I did sight in my rifle a few
weeks back. I shot at a crow on that pole, but I missed him clear and
“Hey, boys, get the ladder. We have nothing to lose
checking this pole,” said Haught.
Sure enough, the line was fine to that pole--and
grounded beyond. The insulator looked good, but there was a piece of
lead from a .22 shell wedged between the wire and insulator.
At last, the line was fixed. It only took 27 days, a
tiny piece of wire, and a new insulator.
Thank God for Mrs. Palmer’s good cookies and sweet tea.
The crew would never have figured out the problem if they hadn’t joined
Mr. Palmer for an afternoon rest and a chat over the cleaning of his