pranks

My Uncle Elmer Johnson, was a character. From what I’ve seen of men from that era, my dad, Al Spencer and his brother, Bill included, thee pranks Uncle Elmer and his brother, Les played were…a bit different from what we played as kids. The boys from their era might make their dad think they were going to run the outhouse over with a tractor, assuming no one knew that he was inside. Of course, they would be in trouble when he came running out with his pants down, in an effort to save his own life. Kids back then, living on a farm, thought nothing of driving a tractor or using dynamite, and there is no end to the ideas they might come up with to play a prank on someone with such items. While Uncle Elmer and his brothers were prone to pranks, it didn’t make them bad kids…just typical mischievous kids…especially in that era.

Uncle Elmer loved holidays. My cousin, Elmer…his dad’s namesake, tells me that his dad literally spoiled the family at Christmas, which was his favorite holiday. I can understand that. Don’t we all wish we had the money to spoil our kids to the max at Christmas. There are so many cool new things out, every year, and you want to give your kids that latest toy or gadget. Every year, someone invents some new cool item, an every kid wants one. It would be awesome to be able to give your kid every great new thing they wanted, and I know that Uncle Elmer wanted to do just that.

Uncle Elmer loved his Harley Davidson motorcycle, and he and his brother “terrorized” the cops in Evansville, racing around, and if I guess right, getting multiple speeding tickets for it. They didn’t worry too much about that, because as we all know, motorcycles are meant to go fast. Uncle Elmer and his brothers, Les and Tom, loved their machines…of any kind. Uncle Elmer drove semi-trucks for many years. He loved the open road, a trait that fit well into his past of tractors, motorcycles, and trucks. Today would have been Uncle Elmer’s 88th birthday. Happy birthday in Heaven, Uncle Elmer. We love and miss you very much.

By the time Spring arrives, people are naturally over the cold and sometimes depressing Winter months. When April 1st arrives, hopefully bringing with it, sunshine and warmer temperatures, pranks seem to just pop into our heads. We need a laugh, and the good-natured pranking of our friends is a great way to get that laugh. People have pranked their friends and family in many ways. The ways are really as diverse as the prankster. My sisters and I, when we were little, did all the kid pranks, like “there’s a spider in your hair” or exchanging the salt for the sugar. Other people go all out, like telling someone their car was stolen or placing a rubber snake in their bed. I suppose some pranks can be a little over the top, and can even backfire on the prankster, but most are done good naturedly, and are taken as such. Of course, the best part for the prankster is yelling, “April Fool” to their victim.

As traditions go, some stand out more than others. In the United Kingdom, it is tradition that all pranks stopped at noon. This continues to be the custom, with the pranking ceasing at noon, after which time it is no longer acceptable to play pranks. So, a person who didn’t watch the time, an playing a prank after midday is considered the “April fool” themselves. In Ireland, it is more of a “fools errand.” The prankster entrusts the victim with an “important letter” to be given to a named person. That person would read the letter, then ask the victim to take it to someone else, and so on. The letter, when opened contained the words “send the fool further” and then the victim knew he had been had. I can’t say that would be a traditional joke, because the word would get around pretty quickly, and then it wouldn’t work.

April Fools’ Day isn’t just for individuals either. On April Fools’ Day, elaborate pranks have appeared on radio and TV stations, newspapers, and websites, and have been performed by large corporations. One of the more famous pranks was in 1957, the BBC broadcast a film in their Panorama current affairs series purporting to show Swiss farmers picking freshly-grown spaghetti, in what they called the Swiss Spaghetti Harvest. The BBC was soon flooded with requests to purchase a spaghetti plant, forcing them to declare the film a hoax on the news the next day. A good prankster could come up with similar pranks for the media to use, and now with the Internet and readily available global news services, April Fools’ pranks can catch and embarrass more people than ever before. It’s the one day that “fake news” can be fake and it’s ok. Happy April Fools’ Day to all the pranksters out there. Have fun, and watch the time so you don’t wind up being the “fool” indeed.

April Fools’ Day has long been a day to play practical jokes on friends and family, and most of us have taken part in the practice each year. The key to April Fools’ Day is when you get to see the look on your “victim’s” face. This year, it seems that a virus had the best joke…for lack of a better phrase for it, because there is nothing funny about COVID19. The virus has wreaked havoc on the world. And now it’s April Fools’ Day, and most of the United States citizens have been told to distance themselves from each other. On April Fool’s Day, that is a cruel joke.

April Fools’ Day pranks don’t really work well by phone, email, or text, although I suppose that, to a degree, Skype or Facetime would allow the prankster to see the face of their victim. Still, part of the fun is more than just their face. A perfect April Fools’ Day joke produces more than just a shocked face, the body language is a part of it too. My family loved April Fools’ Day pranks, and while the jokes varied, going from the typical childlike jokes, like trying to convince our sisters that they had a spider on them, when they were old enough to know that it was an April Fool’s Day joke. If they were feeling generous, they might pretend to be scared, but that reaction was usually reserved for the youngest sister at the time. The rest of us had to step up our game. Somehow, I just can’t imagine any of those jokes working very well by text. I wouldn’t even know how to set it up from that distance.

This year, with “social distancing” as a new part of our reality, the joke appears to be on the pranksters. Oh I might be able to prank my husband…and I probably will, because let’s face it, he’s here, and I am a prankster…and he is pretty much the only “victim” available. Yes, April Fools’ Day pranks will be much different this year, but in light of the fact that we all have cabin-fever, maybe some creative pranking is just the think we all need. So…prank it up all you dedicated April Fools’ Day pranksters. We must never give up without a fight!!

My grandnephew, James Renville is one of the nicest, kindest, most thoughtful young men that people could ever know. This is information that comes to me from the people who know him the best, and not just one of them, but rather all of them. James is a family man who dearly loves his family. For James, family comes first, and he always puts them first, even if he has to change his own plans. He is soft spoken, and thinks before he speaks, making sure that his words do not hurt others. James always thinks the best of people, even if others don’t necessarily see good in them. James looks in their heart.

As a little boy, James was very into the Ninja Turtles, and he went through a Mortal Kombat phase. For several Christmases, all he wanted for Christmas was the costumes for Mortal Kombat and Ninja Turtles. Thankfully, my sister, Cheryl Masterson, who is James’ grandmother, had the talent to make those costumes, and James was delighted in them and played with them constantly…over any other toys he had, in fact. James, Aunt Jenny Spethman was the only person to babysit him, other that his grandma, of course. James would always talk life with Jenny’s boys, and always on their level. He is always playing along with Jenny’s daughter, Aleesia such as pretending that her little vile of water is actually flower potion that he is going to pour on her brothers.

James has a great sense of humor, and loves to pull pranks on his dad, Jim Renville, and his step-dad, Dave Chase. With Dave, James might wake him from a dead sleep while he records the reaction or kicking the soccer ball into the water on the beach so that they have to go get it or saying something stupid while Dave is doing talk to text and then reaching over and hitting send before Dave has time to erase it. Hahaha!! Those guys really have to be on their toes when James is around. While James’ mom, my niece, Toni Chase doesn’t get to see the pranks he pulls on his dad, I’m quite certain that they are just as good. James is quite well known for his pranks, his sense of humor, and the fact that it’s all done in good clean fun, and never in a malicious way. You don’t expect the “victims” of a prank to enjoy the experience, but James’ “victims” actually do. The truth is that he likes to make others laugh (especially himself) at the expense of those he is pranking. He claims that he’s nothing like his dad but he really, he is a lot like his dad. Kids can rarely see that, at least until hey get older. He likes to make the ones he loves smile or do things to make them happy…Dave included. And of course, no pranking story would be complete without mentioning the fact that he is always trying to steal hugs from his Aunt Liz Masterson, because she pretends she doesn’t want them.

James is a self-disciplined man. He eats right and watches his spending. He loves to travel, especially in Europe, and he is saving his money from his job in the parks department for the City of Casper. His plan is to take another European vacation hopefully next year after college is out for the summer, or after he finishes college. It is my guess that James will make a number of trips there in the future. James has big plans for his future, and I know that he will be very successful. Today is James’ 21st birthday. Happy birthday James!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

imageAs a kid, Alena was always just a little bit of a prankster. She loved pulling practical jokes on the rest of us, like the time she kicked a metal Chinese Checkers board that was beside the metal frame if her bed, causing all of us to think that someone had kicked in the big window in our living room, and our parents weren’t home. As we all scrambled around trying to figure out what was going on, Alena was laughing hysterically at the chaos she had created.

Alena always found humor in the things that most of us try to pretend we don’t laugh at. Things like tripping and falling on your face, would find Alena laughing in her shirt sleeve, while trying not to be obvious. Of course, after you picked yourself up off the floor, you had to admit that it did look pretty funny, and in reality, you had to admit that you laughed at the same things, only you left the room so no one would notice.

Of course, not everything Alena did was pranking and laughing. Every year she helps our mom plant her gardens for the summer, and pulls the old dead stuff out for her. When she gets done, the gardens look great. Gardening has never been my thing, so I’m happy to let Alena do those, and she seems to like it. She has a knack for design. The flowers are always perfectly arranged. I guess having a knack is important when it comes to flower beds.

Alena also has a flair for decorating. Not everyone can decorate and have it really look elegant, but Alena can. She uses things like wall paper or border, and bright colored paint that most of us would worry about using, for fear of it being too bright or too dark. I have often found myself wishing that I had the same flair for decorating that she has. When you have imageseen her house, it is easy to come home and thinks that your own house is…maybe a little boring, and you can’t do much about it either…unless you can get her to your house.

From a love of pranking, as a kid, to a love of decorating, as an adult, Alena has changed a lot over the years…I think. I’m pretty sure she still like those pranks quite a bit, and I have a feeling she still laughs when someone face plants in front of her, but she might be a little better at hiding it now. Today is Alena’s birthday. Happy birthday Alena!! Have a great day!! We love you!!

At the time Bob was a teenager, before his little brother, Ron came into the picture, Bob was the only boy in his family, and with 4 sisters, there were plenty of potential victims for his many pranks. Ron would not be born until Bob was 14, so until Bob was 16 to 18, Ron was too little to get himself into too much trouble, or get very involved in the pranks his older brother was pulling. That would come later on. Bob got into plenty of trouble with his older sisters, but this story is about him and his younger sisters. You see Bob was the third child, with 2 sisters older, and 2 sisters younger and finally his little brother joined them later.

Bob, like most boys loved to tease his younger sisters. His sister, Brenda told me that he would chase his sister, Jennifer, with spiders…something I can very much envision, since he has teased me and my girls in the same way. Mind you, it wasn’t with a live spider, but more of a…”Here, don’t you want to see it” kind of thing, which still makes me and probably most other women cringe to say the least. Spider guts are only slightly less disgusting than a spider is scary. I hate spiders…just in case you couldn’t tell. Now, I don’t know what Jennifer did to be the one who was threatened with spiders or spider guts, but one thought would be that she was the best screamer over it. That, to a boy is a really good motivator to continue the torment that I am quite certain continued for quite some time.

Now, his sister, Brenda, got a little bit different treatment. I don’t know if it was because she was younger, or more cooperative when he asked her to call some girl he liked, but was too shy to call, maybe she wasn’t as scared of spiders. Brenda tells me of the times she called girls for him, so I suspect he had to be a little nicer to her. Brenda got candy and chocolate bars, so she would stay motivated to help him out. I guess you would have to say Bob was thinking ahead anyway. And so was Brenda…she had seen the torment Jennifer went through. I suppose you have to compromise sometimes. I know for a fact it’s what I would do, if it meant the difference between spiders and chocolate bars.

When my Uncle Bill was out to visit us about a year before my dad passed away, I had the rare opportunity to hear some of the stories of their childhood first hand. Dad had two sisters, Laura, who was the oldest child, and Ruth who was the youngest child. Dad and Uncle Bill were the two in the middle, and being both boys, I’m sure added to the mischief they managed to get into. Of course, there were the typical stories about walking 10 miles to school, barefoot in 2 feet of snow, and it was up hill both ways…of course, but everyone knew those were just a tall tales.

And then there were the stories that I knew were true, and these were some of the most shocking ones. As is fairly common with boys, my dad and uncle were always into something, and braver that they probably should have been. They told us of one 4th of July morning when they decided to “celebrate” with some fireworks, and since they didn’t have any traditional fireworks…well they improvised…with dynamite!! They placed the dynamite on a gate post, and lit it. When it went off, the gate post was pushed several inches into the ground. It was quite obvious that their mother would notice this when she came home from town that day. Well, my first thought was, “How did you not blow yourselves up?” They told me that they had used dynamite before when they had to remove a tree stump, but that they never thought about what their mom would say when she got home…well, they fixed the gate post before that could happen. I can just about see the shocked looks on their faces when that gate post sunk. I don’t think they expected that, and the look on their faces as they told the story showed that they could still remember how they felt. I wish I could have seen that!!

Uncle Bill also told me about a time when he and my dad were out playing on the woodpile. Apparently they loved to climb all over that wood. I’m sure they played everything from war games to hide and seek, but apparently there was one time in particular that my dad, who was a couple of years younger than my Uncle Bill, and three years old at the time, had played himself out. My Uncle Bill told me that my dad fell asleep, standing up against the wood in the pile. I can just see that now. I’ll bet is was a precious sight.

My aunts didn’t ever appear in these stories of antics, which doesn’t surprise me really. Boys are so different than girls. My guess is that the girls didn’t really want to play the same rough games the boys did, but it is what makes my dad and uncle who they were in those young years. And they never lost that little boy mischieveousness…ever!

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