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Carl & Jerry: Cow-Cow Boogie
August 1958 Popular Electronics

August 1958 Popular Electronics

August 1958 Popular Electronics Cover - RF CafeTable of Contents

Wax nostalgic about and learn from the history of early electronics. See articles from Popular Electronics, published October 1954 - April 1985. All copyrights are hereby acknowledged.

Being that this episode of John T. Frye's "Carl & Jerry" series appeared in a 1958 issue of Popular Electronics magazine, it would have been in the era while the techo-sleuthing buddies were still high schoolers. Having already assisted the local law enforcement solve a few challenging conundrums by exploiting their electronics knowledge, the sheriff enlists them to help locate a moonshine operation that thus far has eluded discovery by his force. Being Ham radio enthusiasts, Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop were particularly inclined to devise wireless technology to achieve their objective to, a la Dudley Do-Right, "always get [their] man." Such is the case here. As always, a technical learning opportunity is enmeshed with the storyline.

Carl & Jerry: Cow-Cow Boogie

Carl & Jerry: Cow-Cow Boogie, August 1958 Popular Electronics - RF CafeBy John T. Frye

It was late afternoon and Carl and Jerry were riding along a country road in a long black car with huge golden stars painted on the sides. Neat white letters spelled out "Sheriff" across the red spotlight lens. The boys, though, did not look the least bit frightened or guilty as they listened with deep interest to what the thin little blue-eyed man at the wheel was saying:

"Police Chief Morton suggested I talk to you two boys. He says you have - er - unconventional minds."

"Didn't he really say that we get a lot of wacky ideas ?" Jerry asked with a grin.

"Well, he did say that; but he also said that some of those wacky ideas turn out surprisingly well. Now here's the situation. We've known for some time that a big still is operating somewhere in this vicinity; but the guys running it are real cute, and we've had no luck at all locating it. Two weeks ago we got our first break. A farmer named Elkins - we're heading for his place now - came into my office and reported something very unusual. He has a cow that comes in from the pasture about three nights a week staggering drunk. We know from the particles still sticking to her muzzle that the cow has been eating fermented mash, and it's almost a sure bet she's getting the mash at the still we're hunting." "Then it ought to be easy to find," Carl suggested.

"Ought to be, but it's not. The pasture takes in eighty acres of very rough ground. Wildcat Creek runs along one end, and that part is almost all gullies and washes. To make matters worse, a goodly portion of the eighty acres is uncultivated and overgrown with trees and scrub brush. A couple of my deputies, pretending to be surveyors, have gone over every inch of it without spotting a thing. What's more, when they were in the pasture, Petunia - that's the cow's name - came home at night sober as a judge. The 'shiners must have been watching every single movement my men made.

"The situation is doubly ticklish because we don't just want to scare the bootleggers off. We want to find that still and destroy it. It must be a whopper from the amount of rotgut it's turning out."

She shook her head from side to side - RF Cafe

... She shook her head from side to side, then staggered over to the water tank and began to drink ...

As he finished speaking, the sheriff wheeled into a barnlot and drove over to where a long, lanky, sad-faced man was standing by a watering tank. The boys had barely been introduced to Mr. Elkins when he shaded his eyes with a bony hand, stared down a lane leading into a pasture, and exclaimed dourly: "Here comes Petunia loaded to the gills again!"

Sure enough, there was a long line of cows in single file plodding sedately down the lane, but one fawn-colored cow was cavorting wildly up and down the line, throwing her tail high into the air and making the bell about her neck clang loudly as she wheeled in dizzy circles. As she reached the barnlot, she broke into a stumbling run and ran full-tilt into a corner of the barn, knocking herself to her knees. She got to her feet, shook her head from side to side, then staggered over to the water tank and began to drink deeply and noisily.

"Now ain't that a shameful sight!" Mr. Elkins said sadly. "If this keeps up, I'm going to have to destroy the critter."

Petunia raised her dripping woozy head from the water and stared foggily at the four people for a few seconds with her large, limpid, slightly blurred eyes; and then she jerked in what was unmistakably a gargantuan bovine hiccup!

"Boy, what a hangover she's going to have in the morning!" the sheriff said with a tinge of awe in his voice. "Well, boys, any ideas ?"

"I'm getting sort of one," Jerry said hesitantly. "How about fastening a tiny transmitter with a very sensitive mike to Petunia and listening to the sounds it picks up as she wanders about the pasture? The moonshiners are used to her, and she can walk right up to their still. Then all we have to do is find Petunia and we've found the still."

"Where would you hide a transmitter on a cow ?" the sheriff asked.

"Inside the cowbell," Carl broke in. "A transistorized transmitter could fit in there easily, and we can fasten a fine wire to that leather strap on her neck for an antenna."

"You got another bell just like that one ?" Jerry asked Mr. Elkins.


"Well, take the clapper out of the bell Petunia's wearing and let us have the other bell."

"What's that for?" the sheriff asked.

They saw the helicopter hovering over the end of the pasture - RF Cafe

... Minutes later they saw the helicopter hovering over the end of the pasture down by the creek ...

"We can't have the bell with the transmitter ringing because that would cover up the sounds we want to hear, but neither do we want the moonshiners looking inside our 'doctored' bell to see why it's not ringing. If Petunia is around them for a day or so with a dead bell, they'll investigate, decide the missing clapper has been lost, and won't check after we switch bells."

"Okay!" Sheriff Greer exclaimed with an appreciative twinkle in his blue eyes. "That's using your noggin. Let's give it a try. I'll take you boys back to town, and you get busy rigging up the transmitter. It will probably take you a couple of days or so, and in the meantime I'll do a little arranging of my own. I've got a hunch that Petunia here will soon be joining Al-cowholics Anonymous!"

Mr. Elkins turned his morose gaze from Petunia to the grinning little sheriff. "It's not enough that I'm plagued with a drunken cow; now I've got to put up with a punning sheriff," he said, heaving a deep sigh and heading for the barn to get another cowbell.

Building and testing the little transmitter so that it would have sufficient range and sensitivity for their purpose was no easy job, and it was almost a week later before the boys were satisfied with it. Bright and early on a Wednesday morning they went with the sheriff out to the Elkins farm. Mr. Greer had driven his official car out the night before and parked it inside the corn crib; so he used his own unmarked car this morning. The special bell was fastened about Petunia's neck, and she was turned out with the other cattle. Then began what promised to be a long vigil as the boys and the sheriff listened to the receiver that had been set up in the corn crib.

"A state police helicopter is standing by at the airport," Sheriff Greer explained. "The instant I call him on my car transmitter, he'll take off and try to spot Petunia from the air. We can keep in touch with him all the time by radio."

Looking through the cracks of the crib, the boys watched Petunia separate from the other cattle and disappear into a clump of brush. Then all three lapsed into silence as they listened to the sounds coming from the radio speaker. Every step of the cow produced a clumping sound, and the calls of birds and the buzzing of insects came through with startling clarity. Suddenly the clumping stopped and there was a sound like the tearing of a glued flap off a cardboard carton.

"What's that ?" the sheriff gasped.

"Just Petunia grazing," Jerry said with a grin. "Kind of a noisy eater, ain't she ?"

But the cow only stopped briefly; then the resumed regular clumping sound indicated that she was moving steadily along. Suddenly all three of the listeners sat bolt upright as they heard the faint sound of human voices coming from the speaker; rapidly the voices grew louder until it was easy to hear what was being said.

"Hey, Jed, looky!" a deep bass voice said. "Here's our regular customer, and we ain't even got the saloon open yet."

Sheriff Greer took a metal cylinder from his pocket - RF Cafe

... Sheriff Greer took a metal cylinder from his pocket, lifted the grating, tripped a trigger on the cylinder, and dropped it through the opening ...

"Quit fooling with that mash-happy cow and shake a leg," a shrill querulous voice commanded. "I want to dump this mash into the creek and get back inside the cave. I'm still worried about those surveyor fellows who were fooling around here a couple of weeks ago."

"Okay, okay, Jed; keep your shirt on. I'll just give Bossy her regular slug and then we'll dump the rest of the mash. Somehow I get a large charge out of seeing the way she guzzles the stuff. That cow is a natural-born lush."

The sheriff was already talking earnestly into the hand-mike of his car unit. He had hardly stopped speaking when the unmistakable throbbing sound of a chopper was heard, and a few minutes later they saw the ungainly aircraft hovering over the end of the pasture down by the creek.

"I've spotted them!" a voice said from the car radio. "Two men are running back into a little gully leading away from the creek. Hey! They disappeared! You come on out and I'll hover right here to keep them pinned down."

The sheriff grabbed a hand-held transmitter-receiver from the car, and all three started at a dead run down the lane. Mr. Elkins saw them through the open barn door, and he snatched up a pitchfork and took out after them.

When they arrived out of breath at the creek, the pilot directed them through the portable radio unit right to the spot where he had last seen the two men. But search as they would, they could not find a single trace of the two. Under the sheriff's direction, they climbed to the top and searched the flat ground on either side of the ravine. It was Mr. Elkins who pushed aside a clump of leaves with his pitchfork and revealed a metal grating set flush in the ground. Silently he beckoned the sheriff and pointed to it.

Very quietly Sheriff Greer took a metal cylinder from his pocket, lifted the grating, tripped a little trigger on the cylinder, and dropped it through the opening. A couple of seconds later there were muttered curses and a scuffling sound from below. The four rushed to the side of the gully just in time to see a section of the wall erupt and two men come tumbling out rubbing their streaming eyes. Clouds of tear gas billowed out of the opening behind them.

In a matter of seconds, the sheriff and Mr. Elkins had the two men's arms handcuffed around sturdy trees and had directed the helicopter to return to the airport and send out some deputies. Then he, Mr. Elkins, and the two boys entered the mouth of the cave which had been so cleverly camouflaged that they had walked past it a dozen times without seeing it. Inside the cave they found the largest still Sheriff Greer said he had ever seen. Supplies had been brought in and the liquor taken out at night by boat on the creek so as to leave no trail, and a light metal boat was in the cave.

"Well, boys, I certainly want to give you credit for a very bright idea," Sheriff Greer said, as they walked out into the sunlight. "Without your help, this poison factory would probably have been going a long time before we found it."

Mr. Elkins walked with a determined stride down to the bank of the creek where Petunia was still licking at the bucket of mash the moonshiners had given her. A vigorous kick sent the bucket sailing far out into the stream. "Come on, Petunia," he said, wrapping a wiry arm around her neck, and leading her up the bank of the stream. "The party's over. From here on in you're on the water wagon.

Come on home and I'll make you up a tub of black coffee."

Carl & Jerry Episodes on RF Cafe

Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop were two teenage boys whose love of electronics, Ham radio, and all things technical afforded them ample opportunities to satisfy their own curiosities, assist law enforcement and neighbors with solving problems, and impressing – and sometimes toying with - friends based on their proclivity for serious undertakings as well as fun.

 - See Full List - 

Carl & Jerry, by John T. Frye - RF CafeCarl & Jerry, by John T. Frye

Carl and Jerry Frye were fictional characters in a series of short stories that were published in Popular Electronics magazine from the late 1950s to the early 1970s. The stories were written by John T. Frye, who used the pseudonym "John T. Carroll," and they followed the adventures of two teenage boys, Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, who were interested in electronics and amateur radio.

In each story, Carl and Jerry would encounter a problem or challenge related to electronics, and they would use their knowledge and ingenuity to solve it. The stories were notable for their accurate descriptions of electronic circuits and devices, and they were popular with both amateur radio enthusiasts and young people interested in science and technology.

The Carl and Jerry stories were also notable for their emphasis on safety and responsible behavior when working with electronics. Each story included a cautionary note reminding readers to follow proper procedures and safety guidelines when handling electronic equipment.

Although the Carl and Jerry stories were fictional, they were based on the experiences of the author and his own sons, who were also interested in electronics and amateur radio. The stories continue to be popular among amateur radio enthusiasts and electronics hobbyists, and they are considered an important part of the history of electronics and technology education.

Carl & Jerry Their Complete Adventures from Popular Electronics: 5 Volume Set - RF CafeCarl & Jerry: Their Complete Adventures is now available. "From 1954 through 1964, Popular Electronics published 119 adventures of Carl Anderson and Jerry Bishop, two teen boys with a passion for electronics and a knack for getting into and out of trouble with haywire lash-ups built in Jerry's basement. Better still, the boys explained how it all worked, and in doing so, launched countless young people into careers in science and technology. Now, for the first time ever, the full run of Carl and Jerry yarns by John T. Frye are available again, in five authorized anthologies that include the full text and all illustrations."



Posted September 27, 2019

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