Watching a squirrel run across a power line sparked a story that won Warren County High School rising senior Lilly Marttala an all-expense-paid trip to Washington D.C.
Marttala entered, and was named the overall winner, of the 2014 Washington Youth Tour Writing Contest. High school juniors in Caney Fork Electric Cooperative’s service area of Warren, White, Van Buren and DeKalb counties were eligible to enter the contest.
The participants were asked to write short stories titled “Electric Cooperatives: Serving Our Members Past, Present and Future.” The stories were to describe how local co-ops remember and honor their community building traditions reaching “beyond the wires” to improve lives across their service areas, while also providing safe, reliable, affordable electricity.
Marttala said she was sitting outside thinking about what to write when she looked up and saw a squirrel running across a power line.
“I saw him and thought, squirrel! I decided to write a story about a young squirrel and how he views the world we live in,” said Marttala.
Marttala’s entertaining story focuses on Squirt, a young squirrel who gets to go exploring with his dad, Alvin. Squirt’s father takes the opportunity to teach him how to be careful with electricity.
Squirt and his father meet up with Grandpa Earl who takes them to a power line. They climb the pole and stand on the wire.
“Squirt, you have to be very careful on these wires. One wrong step and you can simultaneously touch two wires and get electrocuted. These power lines have 7,200 volts per wire, and the major lines have as high as 500,000 volts of electricity per wire in them. That much voltage can pop a squirrel like popcorn,” Alvin explained.
Grandpa shows Squirt the fancy things electricity has done for their neighbors, the Petersons. He explains things such as security lights, air conditioners, refrigerators, washers, dryers and TVs to his grandson.
Squirt asked his grandfather what he did before such things were invented.
“Well,” began Grandpa Earl, ‘things were different when I was young. The Peterson house wasn’t as well insulated, and the windows and doors were always open. We could hear the sounds and smell the different scents coming from the house. In the summer, the family sat outside, fanning themselves or catching a breeze to stay cool. Clothes hung on lines to dry. One time I tasted a pie sitting on the kitchen windowsill. It got dark at night, and everything became quiet. We didn’t have those fancy lights. You had to find as many nuts during the day as you could, and if you didn’t get enough, you went to bed hungry. Times have changed.”
Grandpa explained how the local electric cooperative installed the systems. He also explained what an electric cooperative is, a member-owned business with membership open to those who use its services.
Marttala’s story is now competing on the state level for scholarships.
The Washington Youth Tour is sponsored by Caney Fork Electric Cooperative, the Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association and the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association.
The winning students travel to Washington, D.C., beginning today for a trip that’s scheduled June 13-19.
Other winners were Matthew Foutch of Smithville, Shelene Hitchcock of Spencer and Jacee Holder of Sparta.