It is occasionally said that the best stories in life are true. It being Halloween weekend, you may challenge that assertion, since this is a time that Americans, at least, pay attention to ghosts, goblins and the supernatural.
Nevertheless, the story I have to tell is true, every word of it. And it takes us back to a simpler time.
Today, we often see smashed pumpkins on the road, hear of homes being egged or trees being tee peed. Besides being unimaginative, these pranks also can cause hard feelings among the victims.
But there was a time when life was more fun than it is today, a time 40 years ago when people could laugh at their imaginations, where youths could test their courage without ending up dead or in jail.
I recall my father telling me once how 80 years ago, some students managed to get a horse up to the third floor of his high school one Halloween night, where it was left for the principal and janitor to remove the next morning, along with the attendant mess.
I also recall being at a high school dance in my own youth when a skunk, thankfully deceased, suddenly appeared on the dance floor.
For some reason, youths back then thought minor disruptions like this at teen-aged dances were fun.
So it was that in my hometown, four young men, who will remain nameless to protect the guilty, decided to spice up the local Halloween dance.
The dance was being hosted by the sheriff and his wife in the 4-H Building at the county fairgrounds. The sheriff’s three oldest boys also served as chaperones. The purpose of the dance, from the sheriff’s view, was to occupy the county’s youth so they wouldn’t get into trouble on a night that all too often saw it.
The four young men rose to the challenge. They thought it would be fun to disrupt the dance by releasing a dozen live chickens on the dance floor.
Their first challenge was in obtaining the chickens. They thought a bit, and then someone remembered that the sheriff raised chickens at his home, presumably to supplement the diets of his clientele at the jail. Then someone else realized that the sheriff, his wife and three boys were all at the dance.
Not thinking too far ahead, they drove past the sheriff’s house. It was dark. They came back and stopped. It was quiet.
They went back to the chicken coop and opened the door. The chickens started clucking. They each grabbed a few and within moments, the trunk was full of chickens. They slammed down the trunk lid and left.
When they got to the dance, they parked a couple of blocks away, in part because the chickens were still clucking. They wandered into the dance to check out the security.
Unfortunately for their plan, a number of law enforcement officials besides the sheriff and his family were present, both inside and outside the dance hall.
Their courage wilted. It became time to move on to Plan B. Youth was not to be denied. They decided, if all the cops were at the dance, why not release the chickens in the police station? That way, the sheriff would get his chickens back, but a prank worthy of mention in the school hallways would be achieved.
So they then left the dance. Their car was a typical teenager’s vehicle. It was 15-years-old with a three-speed manual transmission, and the battery was so weak, that in order to start it, they had to start it rolling and then the driver popped the clutch.
They were in the process of trying to start it, when suddenly a squad car came up behind them with its lights flashing.
A deputy got out of the squad and asked what they were up to. For the only time all night, the chickens stopped clucking.
The boys explained the weak battery to the deputy, who told them that the car was unsafe to drive, and that they were to take the vehicle directly home. If he saw them driving around later, he said, they would be in deep trouble. Little did he know.
The deputy left. Having just held their breath more or less for five minutes, the boys let out a collective sigh and went on to Plan B.
They drove to the City Hall, where the police station was in the back. There were lights on in the building, but it was otherwise unoccupied and, in those innocent times, the door was unlocked.
They pulled up to the front door right on the main downtown street. Amazingly no one was around, not even any traffic.
Remembering to leave the engine running this time, they jumped out of the vehicle in Chinese fire drill fashion and opened the trunk. In a flash each of them grabbed a few chickens, they opened the front door (which was unlocked because, after all, it was the police station), and threw the chickens inside.
Then they ran back to their car and went to the dance where they bragged a little bit and enjoyed the remainder of the evening.
The person who related this story to me (I was not among the perpetrators) wants everyone to know in these politically correct times that no chickens were injured during the escapade, that the sheriff got them back and the storyteller also advises that he doesn’t encourage anyone to try this at home.
Have a safe, fun and happy Halloween, but please keep any pranks harmless and remember, it’s OK to “chicken” out.
Tom West is the general manager of the Dairyland Peach. He may be reached at (320) 630-2246 or by e-mail at [email protected]