Some time in 1955 . . .
I had a wonderful group of friends in high school. We stayed close all of our lives, and now some of our lives have even ended. Still, this group of friends, we all agreed, helped us to understand who we were, to define ourselves. Tonight, I want to go back to 1955 and try to recapture our youthful sense of fun with a couple of stories. We were all disposed to pranks. Mariam and I were the worst, followed quickly thereafter by Dee and Willard. Let me tell you about a couple of the pranks, so you can get the idea. One prank was spontaneous and kind of simple and straightforward, and the other one was complex and planned out.
One summer day we were out on a country lane. Frances’ car was parked at the top of a small rise. We were just hanging out, wading in a country stream. Willard suggested to me that we let the brakes off the car and make it look like the car was coasting down into the creek. I stealthily got into the car. Peeking through the crack between the body and the slightly open door, I began to steer the car down the hill. Willard screamed,” Frances, Frances, my God! Your car is loose!” Poor Frances. It scared the daylights out of her. “You guys,” she said, in an expression of half-humor, half-disgust. Of course, every one else thought this was all very funny.
We talked about pranks a lot. We had all heard rumors of lots of crazy tricks. Supposedly, on Halloween, Bob Seyler and Bob Cunningham had stolen Miss Clark’s electric box from her porch, and George Lindamood had ordered a case of beer delivered to her house at the same time a hearse and an ambulance arrived. We heard about sacks filled with cow manure being set on fire on a porch, so that when the homeowners tried to stomp out the fire, they got messy, stinky shoes. But we took prank playing to new heights of creativity.
We decided to get Mariam. (By this time, it was a tribute to have a trick played on you.) This was to be the big production. We would stage a murder, and Mariam would be the only witness. Willard and I were the main initiators of this one. We needed some kind of cover, so we decided we would have a party. Willard would pick up Mariam early and take her out on a country road, ostensibly to neck a little bit. Then, while they were parked, the rest of the gang would stage a “murder” in another car parked nearby. Mariam would see the “murder,” and we would carry the joke as far as we could.
The day of the party, we had a ball. Dee and I mixed up some “blood” from ketchup and other available substances. We took along a cap gun and flash camera to simulate a shooting. The murder site had to be carefully researched. We decided on Stanleyville road because it was relatively untraveled. Willard was dating Joyce at the time, so we used her car. Eight of us piled into it. We had all our props and rehearsed our roles. There would be an argument and shouting. Joyce would flash the camera and at the same time Myra would shoot the cap gun. Then Dee and Willard’s brother, Rich, would drag me in front of the car lights. Frances would pour the blood on the road and leave a cap behind.
We made out for Stanleyville road. It was a perfect night for a murder: chilly, thunder, light rain, and a little fog. Unfortunately, the fog was much thicker at the proposed murder site. We were worried that Mariam wouldn’t see what was going on. As we drove to the appointed place, we did pass Willard and Mariam parked in Mariam’s car. The murder took place on schedule. The fight occurred, the gun and flash went off, I was “beaten” in front of the car headlights, and the blood was deposited on the road.
There were a few hitches to the plan, however. For one thing, we hadn’t planned on the rain. At 200 pounds, I was quite a body. Dee and Rich dragged my butt through the mud, giggling and laughing all the way. The rain was to wash away the blood. We were supposed to chase Willard and Mariam to make it more exciting. As it turned out, we couldn’t keep up with them. Later that evening we found out why. Willard was driving and was trying to keep the car at a chaseable speed, but Mariam had other ideas. In her panic, she had stomped her foot down on top of his. It is a tribute to Willard’s driving that they didn’t go off some of the banks on Stanleyville Road. Fortunately for the sake of the trick, Willard was able to steer down a longer course back to the party. We had to get back to my house and start partying, and I had to change my filthy clothes. My mom, Lorene, had been let in on the deal, and was cool with the whole thing.
Mariam arrived in an extreme state of excitement. As it turned out, she only saw the flash of light, nothing else, but Willard had convinced her of the rest. She immediately wanted to call the county sheriff. We, of course, had decided to pretend that we were unconvinced. We made her take us back out to the site. When we got there, the blood and the tire tracks were washed away, but the cap was found. We returned to my house. I still have a strong mental image of us all hovering around the phone with Mariam saying, “We’ve got to call the Sheriff!” We were egging her on, but since my mother was in on it, she had the good sense to tell Mariam that it was all a joke.