It was documented during one three year period in the 1940’s, that Oscar, known as ‘Sparky’ to everyone in Pottawatomie County, was struck by lightning on the average of once every 15 months and survived. On top of that, Sparky wasn’t one to take unnecessary chances either. He installed lightning rods on each corner of his house and he even put them on his dairy barn and corncrib. He also hired a construction firm from Oklahoma City to install a giant lightning rod on the windmill next to the barn. In his efforts to protect himself, he even mail-ordered all the way from North Carolina, a special pair of safety shoes that were equipped with ‘anti-gravity’ soles. As another precaution, he also dragged a chain from the rear axle of his pickup truck to cut down on the static electricity.
For all his trouble and expense to ground himself, Sparky wasn’t that successful. It was said that at one time or another, lightning had knocked him out cold, burned off his hair, damaged his hearing, ripped shoes off his feat, and hurled him 10 feet or more through the air. If fact, some people were so afraid to be around him during a storm, that he was once asked to leave a Wednesday night prayer meeting when a sudden spring squall knocked out the lights.
I have a 1947 newspaper clipping from the Pott County News that described what happen to him when he was once struck down. The headline reads “Sparky Brownson hospitalized after starting a grass fire”. The story quotes Sparky as saying: “There was a terrible storm about ten miles away. I was plowing and stopped my tractor and when I got down to watch it, I noticed a small black cloud near me. Then I smelled sulfur and my hair was standing on end. When it struck, I felt as if I was being cooked. My hat caught fire. The bolt traveled down my body, burning me and setting my underwear on fire. It knocked me down and one of my shoes was been ripped off. Luckily I was close to the windmill and was able to put out the fire in my underwear in the water tank.” The story also reported that Sparky spent four days in the hospital recovering. It was after this incident that Sparky started wearing ‘flash-proof’ underwear that he bought at an army surplus store in Shawnee.
For all his problems Sparky was popular at barn dances and outdoor bar-b-cues. He was know as the hi-light of most parties because he would hold a lightbulb in either hand and light up the gathering. Children simply loved him. He was always being asked to referee their afterdark games. He seemed to have a glow about him that gave you a sense of security. When he passed away from natural causes later on in life, our city fathers ran a electrical line from his grave to power Maude’s only stop light.