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How My Life Mimics Jurassic Park

June 23, 2009

Do you remember that scene in the first Jurassic Park, where Dr. Grant and the two kids had to climb over a dead electric fence to reach the other section of the park? While the little boy was on the fence it turned on, sparking in anger and blowing the kid about 30 feet off of the fence, where he nearly died. Of course he didn’t die, because it was a family movie, but that’s beside the point.
A little known fact is that scene was modeled after one of my real life experiences, with a couple of small changes. Instead of being on an island of dinosaurs off the coast of Costa Rica I was on a cow farm in southern France. Instead of being chased by the aforementioned dinosaurs I was meandering through fields, dodging the cow shit on the ground. And, finally, instead of having to climb over a huge, 40-foot high electric fence, the fence I had my encounter with was about 4-
feet high. With a much, much lower current.
But, basically the same.
So here’s what happened.
I was around 7 years old. I was in France with my family on vacation, visiting some friends of my mother. This was farmland. Fields stretched as far as the eye could see. Bales of hay filled some of the fields, cows grazed idyllically in others. Farms bracketed the property on three sides. For one farm we had to help herd cows, blocking a side road with our bodies so the bovines would rush down a single lane. Imagine it, a 7-year-old boy, eyes wide in fear as literally hundreds of the biggest and well-fed cows on the planet rumble past him. It was absolutely terrifying, yet utterly thrilling at the same time.
I was able to ride on a tractor while the farmer collected the bales of hay. What little boy doesn’t want to ride on a tractor in real life? I got to do it.
One afternoon the elderly farmer who lived on the other side of the property called me over to his barn. I went inside and came face to face with a wall of rabbit cages. There were beautiful white rabbits, lovely brown rabbits, a selection of speckled and spotted rabbits. All of them plump, soft and cute as cute could be.
“Which one you… want… to eat?” the farmer asked me, in his broken English. I pointed near the top of the cages, to a caramel coloured fuzzy creature. He opened the cage, and gave me the rabbit to hold. It looked up at me with big, trusting brown eyes while I ran my little fingers through its soft, luxurious pelt. The farmer looked at me, and I nodded.
That night the cage was empty, and there was a plate of succulent, fresh meat waiting for me.

This was how I spent my summer in France; however, the story’s not over.

One day I was walking through the surrounding fields gazing at the blue sky (something I hadn’t been used to, coming from the UK) and the cows. Unbeknownst to me, electric fences are commonly used to keep cows in their respective fields. The electric current these fences emit are but a surprise for the thousand pound cows they hit. For a 7-
year old boy, the shock is more substantial.

It didn’t help that both that the fence poles are spaced pretty far apart and the electric wires are razor thin.

I was walking around, oblivious when I walked into one of these wires chest first.

It felt like I was literally kicked in the chest by a stallion.

I was thrown back at least 30 feet (though it may have really been more like one foot) with smoke coming off my chest and my shirt in tatters (ok, I lied again, but it would have been super cool had smoke actually come off of my chest).

I suffered no permanent physical damage, though it may explain some aspects of my behaviour (like my propensity to sleepwalk, though that’s another story).

I must warn you, heed my story. If you’re ever wandering in French fields keep your eyes peeled. Or the fence just may get you too.

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