Rural Missouri - May 2021 - 12

RM | NEIGHBORS

A New Light
Life is good at the end of the line
by Zach Smith | zsmith@ruralmissouri.coop

J

ohn Murphy says his family has always been blessed
with a good memory. He remembers as a 9-year-old
boy, watching an electric cooperative truck laden
with poles being winched out of a ditch.
The " most brilliant " memory of the same day shines in
John's mind above all the others: when the lights came on
at his family farm south of Maysville. It was around dusk
when the lineman yelled to his co-worker down the line
and the 300-watt bulb atop a pole halfway between the
house and the barn illuminated the gathering darkness.
" It wasn't dark yet, but that light came on and just
brightened everything up, " John recalls. " The barn lit up
- and it had been dark in there for years - and you could
see the cows and the calves. And then we went into the
house, and it was just like daylight to us. "
Today, the four children and 16 grandchildren of John
and his wife, Sharon, are amazed their forebears ever lived
without electricity. Looking back on that evening in 1950,
John says he almost questions it himself. The single ceiling fixture was such a drastic change that it amazed him.
It also amazes him that he is here to share the story.
John celebrated his 80th birthday this March. The milestone is an accomplishment of longevity for anyone, but
for " Farmer John " it marked another type of anniversary.

12

RURALMISSOURI.COOP | MAY 2021

It was exactly 40 years ago that he received perhaps the
worst birthday present anyone could; the diagnosis of an
acoustic neuroma - a rare type of brain tumor.
" I really didn't want to turn 40, because that's the beginning of old age, " John says with a laugh, " but in a split
second my thinking went from turning 40 to wondering if
I'd turn 41. "
Three successful surgeries later and John felt he had
been blessed. He saw his gift of life in a new light, much
like the light that first night around the family dinner table
without the aid of a kerosene lamp.
Electricity changed life on the farm. John recalls the
first appliance the Murphys purchased was a refrigerator to replace the icebox. This was soon followed by an
electric range to replace one that ran on kerosene. The
family eventually added running water, meaning John
and his seven siblings no longer had to tote buckets to fill
his mother, Helen's, gas-powered Maytag washer. Also a
thing of the past were the Daisy hog waterers, which used
a kerosene heater and would freeze when a puff of wind
extinguished the flame. Father Francis' hand tools were replaced by Skilsaws and electric drills. John and his brothers also helped their father wire many of the neighboring
homes when electricity came their way. Fishing wire down
through the walls, John remembers, was much easier
given that none of the homes of the day were insulated.


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Rural Missouri - May 2021

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