An Obsession For Practical Jokes
My grandfather had an obsession for pulling practical jokes. He especially enjoyed teasing my brothers and me when we were kids. One evening as we were engrossed in watching TV he decided to pull another one. Suddenly he hollered for us to turn the TV down and picked up the phone. That was strange since none of us had heard it ring. But it must have since grandfather was talking to somebody.
Apparently a bear, wearing a cow bell, had escaped from a traveling zoo and was prowling the countryside around our Ozark Mountain farm house. He didn’t seem worried about it so we returned to our TV show. None of us noticed when grandfather quietly slipped out of the room. Not long afterwards we heard the unmistakable clanking of a cow bell outside the living room window. Scared out of our wits we beat a hasty retreat to the storm cellar outside.
We cowered in the dark, dank cellar for what seemed an eternity. Then our grandma came out and lit the coal oil lantern. She gathered us up and sat us down on the storm cellar bed. There are lots of thunder storms in Arkansas and grandma was deathly afraid of them so she spent a lot of time out there. She finally calmed us down, but was unable to convince us there wasn’t a real, live, child-eating bear, prowling the premises. However, she eventually coaxed us out of the storm cellar.
The short trip back to the house was a terrifying one for me and my three siblings. Every bush and shrub in the eerie darkness hid a huge bear waiting to pounce and devour us. The coal oil lantern grandma held did little to illuminate our path in the pitch black night.
Take This Here Lantern
Gratefully, we reached the safe threshold of the farm house and there was granddad across the room, trying his best to keep a straight face.
But wait!! He was dressed differently now. He was sporting his hunting jacket and hiking boots. He was also loading his shot gun! What was he up to now?
Pretending not to see me he hollered “JIMMAEEE” in that gravelly voice of his. He always called for me by my nickname “Jimmy."
And as always it meant he had singled me out for yet another escapade. Like I’ve mentioned before, it was probably because I was the most gullible.
He took the coal oil lamp from grandma and held it out to me. “Here Jimmy. Take this here lamp,” he growled. In wide eyed innocence I asked why. “Cuz, we’re going bear hunting!” he gleefully shouted. Then he stood up and stomped his over sized boots on the floor to get a more comfortable fit. Something he always did when funning with us.
At five years old, this was NOT very funny. But, he went on. “Now, you take this here lantern, see?” he instructed. I’m gonna get in the car and drive slowly down the dirt road while you walk out in front a ways.
”Who, me? Not on your life! I decided I was tired and wanted to go to bed…peculiar behavior for a five year old on a Saturday night.
Grandfather continued “you gotta go out in front of the car and shake the bushes to see if that bear is hiding in there.” Was the man nuts? Couldn’t we just wait for the bear to leave?
But Gramps was not to be dissuaded. “If that bear is hiding in any of those bushes, you chase him out…then I’ll jump out of the car with my shot gun and shoot him!”
However, by this time I had had enough and was hiding safely behind grandma’s apron seeking refuge. Her inevitable stern warning was next. “JAMES…YOU LEAVE THOSE GRANDKIDS ALONE NOW, YA HEAR!” But he never did…which makes him my most unforgettable character.
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