Stuff I Used to Do

Last week, I solicited ideas for new blog topics.  Thankfully, you’re a creative lot, so I received several good ideas.  Choosing randomly, I have decided to address this suggestion from TopazVonZ:

“How about an occasional “Back in my day” blog about crazy crap you did while growing up, or the wonders of playing Atari for the first time (yanno, because you’re old). ❤ you Turner!!”

Ah, yes. Crazy crap from when I was growing up (because I NEVER engage in ill-conceived tomfoolery these days.)  But where to begin?  Well, any good story of childhood shenanigans must involve my younger brother.  And perhaps the prank that we were always most proud of, a prank we actually learned from my father.  A prank we called “The Sucker String.”

***WARNING: DO NOT, I REPEAT DO NOT DO ANYTHING I AM ABOUT TO SHARE WITH YOU.  SERIOUSLY.  DON’T.***

Here’s how it goes down.  You wait until nighttime.  You find a road/street with moderate traffic.  You get yourself some kite string or twine and stretch it across the road.  Upon this string, right in the middle, you hang a sign that simply reads “SUCKER!”

Then you wait.

Eventually, a car comes along.  This car’s headlamps light up a seemingly floating-in-midair object.  Is it debris?  Swamp gas?  A pelican?  A misplaced street sign? Jesus?  Whatever conclusion the driver comes to, it happens very quickly.  Imagine the driver humming along doing about 40 in a 35 at night, when suddenly SOMETHING IS IN THE ROAD!!  Brakes squeal, the steering wheel is jerked suddenly to the left or right, groceries in the backseat are thrown to the floor, open soft drinks in cup holders spill.  Once the vehicle comes to a halt, the driver exits, walks to the middle of the street, searches for the random object that nearly caused a rollover, and then there it is…gleaming white, a few feet away.  The driver stoops to retrieve the white paper, and the driver’s mind strains to comprehend the meaning of the letters scrawled in Magic Marker.  Why?  Why did someone put “SUCKER!” on a sign…in the middle…who…god damn it.

The amazing Nic Cage film "Drive Angry" was inspired on events from my childhood or something.

The amazing Nic Cage film “Drive Angry” was inspired by events from my childhood or something.

Now, the real trick for the pranksters is waiting it out.  Staying concealed, usually in a ditch by the side of the road, watching.  You, your little brother, maybe a couple of other street urchins.  Holding your collective breath. Anticipating.  Seeing the look of confusion turn to one of anger, hearing the paper crumple in the furious fists of a soccer mom or Cub Scout dad as they look around, knowing they’re being watched, sensing that a laugh is being had at their expense.  Hopefully it ends with the driver returning to their vehicle, mad at the sticky Tab-soaked dashboard, even madder at the punk-ass kids that almost caused a serious accident.  Usually, that’s how it works.  Usually.

BWAHAHAHAA!!! DUDE ALMOST DIED!!

BWAHAHAHAA!!! DUDE ALMOST DIED!!

Sometimes your brother is cackling with glee at the chaos you’ve sown, and one of your cohorts has to literally clamp a hand over your sibling’s mouth.  And sometimes the angry driver spots you, and you have to dart from cover, high-tailing it through back yards, dodging clothes lines, hurdling fences, inciting the frenzied barks of a dozen curious dogs.  This is much more difficult when your brother is laughing so hard he can barely stand, much less run.  One person on either side, holding him up as he lurches along.  It’s like he’s been gassed by the Joker and hell is chasing behind us in the form of a guy with a mustache and a flashlight and hatred in his glowing eyes, just visible beneath the bill of the dirty Reds cap he always wears when framing houses.

There’s a different kind of fear when you’re a kid.  On one hand, it’s a much more innocent fear.  You know nothing of lawsuits or bail bondsmen or metal-pipe beatdowns (baseball bats and padlocks?  Sure, but that’s a tale for another time.  True story.)  But there’s another fear that kids experience in such a situation.  Fear of the unknown.  What happens if this dude catches us?  What if one of us breaks his ankle stumbling through somebody’s garden?  What if he knows our parents and he’s WAITING AT OUR HOUSE WHEN WE GET BACK?!?!  What if he’s an off-duty cop?  Or a killer?  (When I was a kid, we really didn’t fear kidnapping or abuse or any of the real-world horrors of today.  Nope, getting killed.  That was really about the worst thing a guy could do to you.  Imagine how much nicer X-Box Live would be if that were still the case.  “I’M GOING TO KILL YOU, NOOB!”)  That fear was so awesome.  It was sort of a drug, and I’ll admit that my brother and I would probably be labelled “adrenaline junkies” had the title existed back in the early-80’s.  It was the fear you get from riding a really well-designed roller coaster.  You KNOW you’re going to be okay.  That damn thing has been running all day, every day, for a dozen summers in a row, and nobody’s been killed whilst riding it.

Yet.  Nobody’s been killed yet…

Possibly the biggest buzzkill in the history of this blog. Damn.

Possibly the biggest buzzkill in the history of this blog. Damn.

There are a million other wonderful stories of my brother and myself getting into misadventures and, yes, trouble.  But I wanted to share this one so you’d have some idea of how things used to go down.  Was this as bad as nearly burning up a friend with our homemade napalm? No.  Was it as destructive as the time my brother pulled a “Carthage” on a mean old neighbor’s lawn?  No.  Was it riskier than simple tee-peeing?  Yes.  A better story than the time my high-school pals and I attempted to re-enact the taking of Grenada by literally stealing the Grenada Ave. street sign?  Oh, very much so.  There are many more tales of larceny and near-escapes, because I had a hell of a childhood and a brother to share it with.  And now that I have kids of my own, it’s time to pass on what I’ve learned.

Watch out, Ft. Wayne.  There are two new Watson Boys almost old enough to begin wreaking havoc.  May God have mercy on your souls. (And drive safely!)

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4 responses to “Stuff I Used to Do

  1. I don’t remember what my friends and I were doing to be running through back yards at 2 am, prb nothing good. 1 of my friends face first into a fence that we didn’t know was there. Hilarious! He was ok just embarrassed.

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  2. We used cassette tape strung across the streets when we did the exact same prank….it was found one evening by an ON Duty police officer…that was fear for me

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    • That was one of our greatest fears: seeing the car stop and noticing a light bar on top. We also inadvertently clotheslined a guy on his ten-speed bike once. I felt bad about that. We all did. (Not enough to go to his aid, mind you.)

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