Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet |

Peggy Sanders: Confluence Chronicles – Where City & County Meet

Peggy Sanders
Oral, S.D.

In preparation for moving plants from one flower bed to a new one, I built a dry rock wall around the perimeter. If I were designing the yard now I wouldn’t have the electric power pole standing just two vehicle widths from the house. I was whining to myself that I wish it wasn’t there. Then I remembered how grateful the original homeowners had to be at even having electricity. I’d bet the idea of a little inconvenience of a pole in the center of the yard never crossed their minds.

Power came into this rural area before I can remember – just barely. We had a path and an outhouse for the first six years of my life, but we had electricity. It is beyond my comprehension that just one generation before me, rural areas did not often have electricity as we know it. My grandparents did have a light plant. Many readers are of the age where they could tell interesting stories about living without electricity and I hope they get their stories recorded for oral histories.

The rest of us notice electricity mostly when we don’t have it due to a storm or some other action. Commonly, home owners have a drawer or bag containing candles and matches, flashlights and batteries, just to get around the house. When we only had a well for water, it required electricity for use. No power – no water. Now we have a rural water district from which we buy our household water and anytime the power is off, we have to remind ourselves that we still have water. That is such a treat to me. I’m sure it is much less of a thrill than it was for the previous generation to have electricity at the flip of a switch, nonetheless, I am grateful.

It may not be common knowledge but cordless telephones do not work when the power is off, though regular telephones generally do. That is important for consumers in deciding what type of phone to install, if only one phone is in a residence. I’ve not tried to use a cell phone during a time of a general outage so I don’t know how they do.

Rural residents often have generators, either portable or tractor powered. Either type requires gasoline or diesel fuel to run. That can present a problem when the farm bulk fuel pumps are powered by electricity, there is no power and the machines run out of fuel. It is sort of a Catch 22. We experienced the problem a few years after four days of a six day blizzard and had to go to town where they had power to get gas. We got a good laugh out of it, and learned a lesson which I’m now passing on.

I don’t know if there will ever again be such a large forward leap as there was when electricity first came to rural areas, but it will be interesting to watch as new opportunities to create electricity come along.

Peggy Sanders writes from the ranch in South Dakota. Her mail is