Ringing the Dog

Up in Clifford, during the storm of 1954, there was a Wightman telephone lineman. His name was Clayton Newton and he worked for Wightman for over 40 years. Clayton often told many stories about his years with the telephone company, including the one about the Clifford telephone that rang the dog.

It was the 1950s, before the time of dial up, and those, of course, were the days when there was an operator who put through the calls. One day, Clayton received a call from a local farm complaining that their telephone was working properly except for one thing: it wouldn’t ring. And the funny part, the farm lady explained, was that she had discovered that anytime somebody tried to call her, even though her phone would not ring, her dog would let out a terrible howl.

So, in all his years, Clayton said he’d never heard of anything even a little bit like this, so out he went to have a look for himself. And he was really scratching his head when the dog gave out a big howl and the woman went over to the phone to answer it and, sure enough, someone was there. So Clayton figured he’d go out and see what was happening with the dog.

By the time he got out there, the dog was back to lying down and trying to get back to sleep. But what Clayton noticed was that the dog’s chain was attached to the telephone ground wire and the ground wire was broken. That meant that every time a call came in, instead of the power going to ringing the telephone, the electricity travelled down the ground wire and through the poor unsuspecting dog. And that, Clayton later explained to the woman, was almost 110 volts, or the same as putting your finger in a light socket: not very nice for the dog.

The mystery was solved and the dog was saved, but you can well imagine that that dog had the situation figured out well before Clayton or the lady of the house. The dog knew that incoming calls were bad news and I’m sure that each day as that dog got put on his chain he silently said a prayer like, “Please no calls today!”

– adapted from Campbell Cork’s contribution to the Treasures of Minto Story Telling Event (May 24, 2013)