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Halloween pranks involving potatoes and outhouses

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Posted: Wednesday, November 11, 2009 12:00 am

A little post-Halloween fable: Once upon a time there was a rowdy boy who indulged in sundry acts of mayhem in his little town in Squarehead County, USA.

As he grew up, he was taught by the older boys to put nasty things in paper bags, put the bags on the front porches of grouchy older people, light the bags on fire, knock on the door and run. There being no door bells in those days, it required exquisite timing. Since the grouchy old people moved slowly, the bag would have reached its full intensity as a fire. And when the grouchy old person reached the porch and stomped out the flame, suddenly the grouchy old person discovered what made the burning bag sort of mushy, and that lent a much, much greater meaning to the term "grouchy."

On the morning after Halloween, the father of that same overly active youngster took his son by the arm and directed him into the living room, where the dad sat down and faced the son with the story of George Washington and the cherry tree.

"In light of the incident of the cutting down of the cherry tree in the Washington family's front yard and remembering that young George was reminded yet again that honesty is not only the best policy, but in that honorable family, the only policy, do you feel obliged to tell the truth in light of the fact the elder Mr. Washington didn't spank his son because he bravely told the truth about the use of the ax on the cherry tree that fateful night?"

The son, feeling slightly relieved, listened as his father went on and said, "Yes, sir."

"I want to know, son, if you were in on the tipping over of the outhouse last night."

The son admitted, "Yes, I helped tip over the outhouse."

The father grabbed his son, and roughly forced the kid over his lap in preparation to deliver the kid a walloping he would never forget.

The boy protested loudly, "You said you wouldn't spank me if I told the truth."

"Not exactly," said the father. "The definitive difference between the two stories is that George Washington's father wasn't in the cherry tree when the kid chopped it down."

Well, there are tons of differences between the "then" of my developing years and the "now" of today. For one thing, eggs weren't nearly five bucks a dozen for the organic variety, because in those days all eggs were organic and, for the most part, fertilized. And, incidentally, stolen, so it didn't cost anything to egg the school principal's house.

When we were out paying homage to the Halloween devils, we would have used up enough eggs to feed a family of 10 for two weeks. We would have squirted enough glue into enough keyholes that night to put together 20 scrapbooks like the ones our sisters had in their hope chests. We jammed enough potatoes into enough car tailpipes to supply McDonalds for a week. The sad part of that was the fact that we were never around to see or hear it when the cars, that did start, blew loud holes into their mufflers.

And speaking of minor explosions, the Fourth of July just happened to be another day when it came to setting off firecrackers. The ones we used Halloween night were specifically designed to cause some of the weaker member of our species to have heart attacks or other attacks of a more personal, and certainly more embarrassing, nature.

Them wuz the days before canned shaving cream or Silly String (the use of which is a misdemeanor crime, mostly during the moment the Lodi High School marching band did their thing in front of the judges' stand at the corner of Pine and School streets during the Grape Festival Parade). This put Lodi on the list of towns with insane laws on the books.

Incidentally, in the most law-conscious city in the world, Chicago, there is a law on the books that makes it a crime to carry a ukulele down the street unless it is in an instrument case. They had a meeting of the city council in Chicago that week, and the City Fathers asked themselves, "Since this is one of the most crime-ridden cities in the world, what can we do to make people think we are soft on crime?"

It didn't work. There were only six people in Chicago who carried instruments in violin cases, and the rest of them had Thompson machine guns. That made people breathe easier, to be sure.

In Lodi, Silly String can stain a band uniform, and with squareheads, that can lead to violins — not violence. Or, as Lawrence Welk said when asked what he thought of all the violence on TV: "Dey are nice, but I like cellos even better."

Bob Bader is a writer who practices chiropractic. He can be reached at

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