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Education Gainesville Student Showcase

Gainesville Student Publishes Award Winning Essay

Erin Warrick wrote the following essay in her senior year at Gainesville High School for a contest sponsored by the White River Valley Electric Cooperative's Youth Tour Essay Contest. She was one of three winners, and won an all-expenses paid trip to Washington D.C. for six days in June.

Living Without Electricity Imagine life without electricity, not just a brief power outage. We all know how inconvenient life becomes when our electricity is out for only a few hours. How hard it is to remember for that short period of time that the light switch will not produce instant light, the hair dryer will not immediately blow dry our hair, or that we can't even run water into our homes. Our homes and lives have become so dependent on electricity it is really hard to imagine everything that would change without it.

Lifestyles in our own Ozark Mountain region have changed dramatically with the invention of electricity and its establishment into our everyday lives. Have you ever noticed a log cabin built at the very top of a high mountain where it would have a beautiful view? Probably not. Locations were chosen for homes because of accessibility to water, preferably a big spring. Having your home close to a spring meant having cold milk, a cool watermelon in the summer, and plenty of drinking water. Before electricity, a "spring box" would be constructed where the cool spring water would run into it and be deep enough to cover containers of milk, butter, etc. I'm convinced that a spring located close to your home was just about one of the biggest luxuries in those days. Remember, without electricity there were no electric cattle waterers. Drawing water from the well by hand to water a herd of cattle and horses would now seem an impossible task.

Can we really imagine doing laundry without electricity? Carrying water from the spring, or drawing enough water from the hand-dug water well could prove to quite a day's chore. We really can't imagine the time and effort put into doing a mere "load of laundry" before our electric washers and dryers. 

Homes were built lower in valleys instead of hilltops also because of heating and cooling. Remember, there were no air conditioners or fans to create the perfect breeze on a hot summer day. Also, during the winter the valley provided a much-needed reprieve from the strong winter winds. Our ancestors would surely think we had lost our minds to see where we build homes now. 

Now, I wonder what our ancestors did for entertainment? There were no movie theaters, televisions, CD players, or computers. Perhaps being without instant entertainment was why so many people learned to play musical instruments. Families were usually larger in the number of children and they often could have their own "backyard band." They would often invite neighbors to gather for music and perhaps a dance. Possibly the invention of electricity has caused us to be less creative.

Neighbors were not only for visiting and entertainment; they were also one of the main sources of news and weather. Our ancestors did not have the luxury of choosing their neighbors, but it was almost imperative that they cooperate with each other. How many people today really visit their next door neighbors, or even know who they are? 

Neighbors were relied on to help out on butchering day. Because of the lack of refrigeration, fresh meat was not a luxury at every meal. Normally when cool weather would arrive each family would have a "butchering day." Neighbors would gather at an individual's home and help out with the daylong task of killing and processing a beef and hog. The meat would then be hung in the smokehouse for curing. Hopefully this meat would last most of the winter, and that there was not a warm winter so that the meat would not spoil. During the summer, meat was only served fresh. If you wanted a nice fried chicken, that meant going to your own chicken yard, catching and then killing and cleaning the chicken yourself. Not quite as convenient as going to the freezer and selecting your meat from the large variety stored there, defrosting it in your microwave, and then baking it in your oven. 

I'm sure trying to imagine life without electricity is as difficult for us as would have been for our great-great grandparents to imagine life with electricity. Try to imagine how technology will change our lives in the next fifty years. I wonder if the change will be as significant and life changing as the invention of electricity.



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