Horsepower lends a hand to fiber optic roll out

Gascosage Electric Construction Foreman Bill Medlen used his team of Belgian draft horses to string fiber-optic line in a throwback to the early days of rural electrification.

Gascosage Electric Construction Foreman Bill Medlen used his team of Belgian draft horses to string fiber-optic line in a throwback to the early days of rural electrification.

When Gascosage Electric Cooperative was stringing its first lines in the 1940s, horses and mules were the lineman’s best friends. The Missouri co-op’s history book tells the tale of how a team of unruly mules saved the day when the Ozark terrain turned so steep the men could hardly stand.

“I talked to a lot of old-timers around here, and they told me they pulled a lot of the power lines in here with a team, before they had motorized stuff,” says Bill Medlen, Gascosage Electric’s Construction Foreman.

Tales abound of man and beast working together to bring power into every hill and hollow. But it’s been a long time since any electric ­cooperative linemen worked side-by-side with hayburners. Today, pickup trucks or all-terrain vehicles normally do the job of stretching line between poles.

But when transmission cooperative Sho-Me Power came to Gascosage Electric with a special project, Medlen knew it was the perfect opportunity to show what his team of Belgian draft horses could do.

The job involved pulling 2-1/2 miles of fiber optic cable down the cooperative’s right of way to improve member communications and data service in the area. Medlen says, “We knew the horses would outpull a four-wheeler.”

Gascosage Manager Carmen Hartwell did an Internet search for “horses pulling fiber” to see what she could find. “I found other co-ops had done that in other states not too long ago,” she says. “In fact, a Vermont man routinely strings fiber-optic cable for telecommunications companies using an aging draft horse named Fred.

Source: Rural Missouri Magazine,

Jim McCarty

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