Duck River Essay Winners Announced

Sara Dove, Copy Editor

The winners of the 2019 Duck River Electric essay contest have been announced and CCCHS is proud to congratulate juniors Melanie McKelvey and Scout Bryan on their achievement. As a prize for winning, both students will attend the Washington Youth Tour and will be taken to the nation’s capital for one week over the summer to explore what it has to offer.

Beginning in the late 1950’s, the Electric Cooperative Youth Tour has continuously brought high school students to Washington, D.C. for a week in June. Students submit short stories and are selected for this program by their local electric cooperative. This year’s topic for the 900 word short story contest was “Electric Cooperatives: Connecting Communities.” More than 1,500 students from all across America take part in the Youth Tour experience each year, and the trip is all expenses paid by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA).

Below are the winning stories written by McKelvey and Bryan:


“Electric Cooperatives: Connecting Communities” by Melainie McKelvey

The spaceship hovered low in the night sky, observing the world below and observed by none. The crew it contained was relatively small, as it was only a research vessel, and contained only a captain, a lieutenant, a professor, and a smattering of interns and privates. It wasn’t Captain Koxori’s first time leading a research mission. It was, however, her first time leading a research mission to this particular planet. A small oxygen-rich speck at the corner of the Milky Way galaxy known to its denizens as Earth.

“What province are we entering, Professor?” Captain Koxori asked, turning to their Terraologist, Professor Ixle, who stared eagerly down at the world below.

“If the human computer I have is calibrated properly, then we are in the County of Coffee, in the state of Tennessee, in the country of states that are united.” He responded, with a little too much enthusiasm for Koxori’s taste. She felt one of her many eyes begin to twitch.

“Is the cloaking system online, Lieutenant?” She inquired, frowning intently at the world below him. She had noticed something that intrigued her. A series of tall poles running lines between them. They resembled the energy transferring system back home on Xodor. She couldn’t help but wonder what purpose they served here on Earth.

“Online and operating, Captain.” Lieutenant Graxer called to her.

“Excellent. Lower us by 400 feet. There’s something I want to get a closer look at.”

Graxer obliged, and Koxori felt the ship drift downwards. She narrowed her eyes. “What are those… structures?” She asked dumbly, gesturing towards the poles. She noticed Professor Ixle perk up instantly and braced herself for an onslaught of overeager rambling.

“Oh! You mean the power lines?” Ixle asked. Captain Koxori started to snipe back with a caustic comment, but was cut off by Ixle. “Those power lines provide…well, power, to human dwellings here in Tennessee at least 99.96% of the time. There are roughly 86,000 miles of lines in Tennessee alone. While they’re sometimes maintained by the local government, these here are maintained by an electric cooperative.”

“What is this “electric cooperative” you speak of?” Graxer asked him quizzically.

Ixle puffed up his chest, “I’m glad you asked! I’ve been conducting research on this specific topic for the past few months, I’m even writing a research paper on it at the moment…” He trailed off, sensing Graxer and Koxori’s growing irritation. He awkwardly swallowed before continuing, “Here on Earth, the humans have trade associations called electric cooperatives, “co-ops” for short, set up that are dedicated to delivering electricity to rural and suburban homes. They actually provide a substantial amount of power to human homes here in the human state of Tennessee.”

Koxori’s interest was now piqued. For the past few decades on their home planet of Xodor, they’d been experiencing a considerable crisis on how to transfer power more efficiently to the farmers in western Xodor. For years now they had been left with close to no power and lived in near poverty. Perhaps Ixle had found information that they could use to solve this problem of theirs.

“How much energy do they provide, exactly?” Kiloxi inquired, turning to face Ixle.

“Well, electric co-ops provide power to approximately 2.5 million humans here in Tennessee. In simpler terms, they power roughly one out of every three Tennessee homes.” Ixle said excitedly. Kiloxi turned her head to one of the idle interns standing nearby.

“What are you doing? Take some notes!” She snapped at him. He hastily pulled up a holoscreen and began typing. She turned back to Professor Ixle, “Please, continue.”

“In recent years, the electric cooperatives in Tennessee have been working especially hard to connect communities by providing rural households with high-speed internet.” Sensing his colleagues’ confusion at his word choice, he reiterated, “They’re providing easier and faster access to Earth’s databases to rural denizens, in the hopes that it will increase their economic opportunities.” Kiloxi and Graxer both nodded thoughtfully upon hearing this.

“What else do the electric cooperatives provide, besides power?” Graxer wondered aloud.

“That’s a great question! They actually provide jobs for over 2,000 Tennesseans living in rural areas, as well as pay over $63 million units of human currency in taxes, which goes towards building roads and centers for education and leisure.” Ixle took a breath, before continuing, “As well as providing jobs and power, the cooperatives also provide various educational and leadership opportunities for the younger humans living in rural communities, such as the Washington Youth Tour and the Youth Leadership Summit.”

The more Professor Ixle told them about these electric cooperatives, the more Kiloxi wanted to hear. “There’s more that I can tell you if you’re interested…” He added awkwardly. For once, Kiloxi was delighted to listen.

By the time Ixle had finished relaying all of his notes on electric cooperatives, many hours had passed and the Earth’s star was steadily emerging over the horizon. It was time to go.

“Did you get all of that?” Kiloxi asked the intern, who had painstakingly written down everything Professor Ixle had said. He nodded eagerly and showed her the pages upon pages of notes on his holoscreen. Kiloxi smiled, knowing that with this data they’d be able to improve the lives of their fellow Xodorians, “We’d best be getting back. We have a lot of information to share.”


“Electric Cooperatives: Connecting Communities” by Scout Bryan

The clock had just struck half past eleven when Dale’s groggy sip of coffee was interrupted by a sudden ruckus outside. His fishbowl eyes swam about curiously as the fluorescent lights above flickered unreliably. This was, indeed, most unusual for the safe, reliable, and affordable energy his company provided for 1.1 million homes, farms, and businesses in Tennessee.  In all his years working at his local electric company, Dale Streiber couldn’t recall the last time he had seen the electricity falter so suspiciously.

Laying aside his diligent work at his desk for the moment, he transferred his gaze towards a window.  Alarmed at the sight, all he could decipher through the accumulating smoke outside was a cluster of blinking lights amidst the swirling grey.

Filled with curiosity, he raced out of his chair to inspect further. At that moment, he was greeted suddenly by a force crashing through the window. Shards of glass rained upon Dale as the flying intrusion crashed to the floor.

Trying to maintain a brave facade amidst his confusion, he puzzled over the lump on the floor. His trance broke then as the lump wiggled its limbs and arose to capture Dale around the shoulders. Dale’s pupils swam in circles of fright as he let out a whimpering howl until he realized it was not an alien from his adolescent nightmares but rather a person.

At first glance, the stranger could have been confused for an abandoned circus freak. His globs of ghastly magentas and layers of tantalizing teals poured out into unsettling and disturbing patterns along his tattered shirt.  His hair was far from natural in ways that neither gravity nor the laws of physics could explain. That, however, was not the most alarming feature of the specimen. Marley McGooller, who had mistaken the office window to be a common portal door, was a man known in his time of 3030 A.D. for his anxious eye movements that ticked about the room much like a wound up clock ready to strike at any time.

Uncomfortable, Dale cleared his throat as best he could, and demanded an answer to the lunacy of the situation.  “Who do you think you are breaking windows and interfering with my efforts to uphold the glory of electric co-ops! You should know that we electric cooperatives employ more than 1,000 Tennesseans and pay millions annually in state and local taxes!”  

It was in this moment that Dale could not resist the urge to flatter the company for whom he so proudly worked.

Puffing up his chest and standing in a goofy stance much like a prideful peacock he continued, “We make sure that 2.5 million Tennesseans receive their 99.96% reliable electricity every day. We also provide $171 million in payroll and benefits for the 2, 479 employees in Tennessee… Um… ”  Growing flustered, his speech began to falter. He then quickly added, “But anyways… the best part about us is that we are a non-profit, democratic member controlled organization that lets the people decide how we do services for them. Our program even aims to encourage young people to lead not just our community, but our world… Our future-!”

Then at the mention of the word “future,” the uninterested and jittery stranger seemed to be reminded of something and urgently interjected, “-Where is the electricity!”

The man’s grasp tightened as he spoke. “I was told you were the keeper of all electricity…!”

Dale stood dumbfounded.  Before he could inquire further, however, the smoke outside dissipated and left something to catch Dale’s eye.  Across the desolate street, a flashing rectangular shuttle laid crashed into the side of the road. The foreign capsule illuminated the street in a shower of colors. Marley finally released Dale, whose small, mortified mind malfunctioned at the sight.

It could only be one thing, Dale pondered…

Like a child, Dale’s eyes widened in amazement and it wasn’t long before he exclaimed, “Whoa! This is like a movie! Can I ride along in your time machine?”

A look of utter disgust crossed over Marley’s face. “No. I just need your electricity you fool! I need to travel across time to save humanity! And I don’t need people like you tagging along like it’s some joy ride.”

Dale’s smile slowly sunk into a frown. “But… it would be so radical!”  

Marley’s eyes widened in discomfort at his begging, but he finally succumbed grumpily. “As long as you can kickstart my machine, I’ll take you wherever. Just make haste!”

Then Marley swiftly whirled around and headed for the time machine.

Following eagerly behind, Dale noticed something about the time traveler.  A certain smell emanating from him. A certain scent that eagerly whispered delicious secrets from across the ages of time. He reeked of worn books, powdered wigs, and declarations of change. He stunk of the starved, of hungry cities, of tragedies throughout centuries.  He smelled of the solar system and stars; of puny lives hidden in a fleck of dust; and of everything in between.

“If we’re saving humanity,” Dale asked, “Can I be given a special name in history?”

Marley scoffed sarcastically. “Sure… You could be called the Electric Co-Op God of the 2000’s. I’ll make sure they put you in the books…”

To Marley’s disapproval, Dale glowed with pride for he was not only connecting local communities, but saving all of humanity.


Congratulations to the winners!