When I was a little boy, my parents owned a tractor business; they sold and traded and worked on all kinds of equipment. I’m guessing I was about 5 or 6 years old when dad gave me a magneto out of a tractor. He told me it had a “short” in it and I could play with it. Well, when I wasn’t painting something, (my favorite thing to do at the store) or getting into trouble some other way, I was playing with the mag. I was fascinated with it. It had a steel shaft that you could spin and a long copper wire that would zap anything that was conductive, including people, when you spun the shaft. I quickly learned what a “short” was, because when you were twisting the shaft to get up sufficient rpm’s produce an electrical shock through the wire and kept contact with the shaft too long, it would zap you through the shaft. This was an art at which I was intent on mastering! This was very similar to the one I had; it weighed about 10 pounds.
Dad had a mechanic named Shorty that worked there, so I decided I would practice on him. You couldn’t just walk up to someone, attach the wire to their exposed skin, and hold and spin a ten pound mag while they stood there patiently waiting for a high voltage zap. So I had to be creative. In his spare time, dad had Shorty working on building a new trailer. At this point the frame was complete, and they had rubber tires on it. So, it wasn’t grounded. Perfect! I waited til Shorty was ready to work on the trailer, and as he was welding on the front of it I crawled under the back and attached my wire to the bare metal and spun the mag. He immediately stopped welding and pulled his hood up, rubbed his arm, checked his ground clamp, and put his hood back down. As he started to weld again I put a quick spin on the mag. He dropped the stinger, threw off his hood, and I learned some new four letter words that day. I never have figured out how he knew I was back there…maybe I giggled too loud? After that, Shorty and I came to an understanding, and I had to find another target.
One day, dad was sitting in front of the office on a couch talking to a man about buying a new tractor, and I thought hey, this has possibilities. The couch was sitting up against the office wall, and the wall was hollow. It was a 2×4 stud wall with wood paneling on the outside of it. Anyway, dad was talking (for what seemed like forever) to this guy, and I was climbing all over the couch and bumping into him. Just messing around, like any boy my age was bound to do. After a while, dad leaned back and locked his fingers behind his head. It was a warm day, and he had on a short sleeve shirt. I had the mag laying on the couch and held the wire up on the tender underside of his bare arm, sort of opposite his bicep, and spun the mag. There was a picture hanging above dad’s head on the wall. When the shock hit him I guess his reflexes kicked in, cause he hit that wall hard with his fist; that’s when the picture fell down and conked him on the head. The wall, being hollow, made a really loud bang when he hit it, and after the picture fell, the customer and dad and I all just sat there for a few seconds trying to grasp what had happened. (I had a better idea than anyone else did…) Then the customer busted out laughing, and that was my cue to make a fast getaway. Dad stood up and hung the picture back where it belonged and sat back down to finish the deal with the guy, and I didn’t stick around to find out if he made the sale or not. I am assuming he did, because I never got in trouble for that stunt. However, my mag disappeared that day and I never saw it again.
Needless to say, I was very careful what I gave my kids to play with. I am a little apprehensive about posting this because my dad will probably read it and I may get in trouble yet.