Stories of My Dad's Childhood in Indiana
Some are funny. Some not so funny for the pranked. I love that fright brings out the fight or flight reaction in people. Practical jokes should be funny for everyone, not just the person pulling the prank.
I loved his accent.
My dad had a great but unusual sense of humor. He occasionally told us stories about his childhood in southern Indiana and his little brother Butch. Being raised in California, I was always fascinated with his accent and interesting way of wording things. He used to say gentlemen as if it were an expletive: "Gentle-MEN."
“When we was agrowin up back on the farm, I usta go ‘coon huntin’ ever chance I got. Wayell, ol’ Butch was always a beggin’ me ta take ‘em with me an’ he was jus’ a little varment. So I finally give in an’ tuck ‘em with me.
“Now, y go ‘coon huntin’ at night an’ it gets perty cold. Wayell, he commence ta whinnin’ ‘bout bein’ cold and tarred so I found me a shock of corn and burrowed a bit out and stuck ‘em in thar. He fell asleep ‘til I got done huntin’ when I collected ‘em and carried ‘em home. Yessir.”
Vevay, Switzerland County, Indiana
Another story of Dad and Butch
“Now, don’t you think for a second that Butch didn’t get in his licks. Butch and I were finishin’ up our chores and getting’ ready to head into the house one day. It was colder ‘n a landlord’s heart out an’ I was a sport’n ma new leather jacket I got fer Christmas. It was heavy-lined an’ I must a been thinkin’ it was bullet-proof too, sos ta speak. Butch was a tryin’ out his new air-pump BB gun when I got the bright ideer to see how it would feel to be BB shot with ma new jacket on. Wayell, I asked Butch to shoot me right between the shoulder blades. He must a been twenty paces or so from me. He put about ten pumps on the gun and I turns around prepared for a thump between ma shoulder blades. I hunkered down ma head so if’n he missed, I wouldn’t loose an ear or somethin’. He took aim an’ squeezed the trigger.
“Now I don’t think he missed, ‘cause he was too good a shot. But he was still shocked when I grabbed ma pants and commenced ta screamin’ like a banshee. He dropped that gun and took to the hills. By Gadfree, that smarted. To this day I have a dimple in ma left butt cheek.”
Oh, the pain!
Dad used to tell us about chiggers. Being from California, we naturally had never experienced those little creatures that burrow under the skin in the summers in Indiana. One day his grandmother told him that to get chiggers out, you should rub your legs with kerosene. I can only imagine how painful that was. Dad said chiggers were so annoying a boy would try anything to get rid of them. So he did try kerosene and ran around in circles, jumping up and down because it burned and his grandmother laughed and laughed. He must have gotten his sense of humor from her.
I remember well summer evenings in Indiana with the lightning bugs glowing and teasing us. They looked so “other worldly”, something like Tinkerbelle or some such fairy. My girls had never been out of California and so they just couldn’t imagine what I meant when I spoke of the lightning bugs. I was just a little girl myself when dad moved the family here to California. I couldn’t even say lightning but back then. They were Idee bubs. I do remember begging mom for a jar so I could chase and catch them. I felt very proud returning with a jar of green, blue and yellow glowing Idee bubs. Mom told me one night she woke very early in the morning because there was a green light coming from the living room. She thought maybe there were burglars but upon entering the living room she found it was completely illuminated by a Mason jar of lightning bugs. So she let them go.
The funny thing is how ugly those bugs are in the light of day. I know more than once I thought someone let out my fairies and replaced them with these ugly plain brown bugs.
Oh, to Sew.
Do you have family stories that your parents or grandparents told?
The Blind stitch, a very useful sewing technique.
We, his daughters, came by the practical joking gene honestly then. When my sister and I were doing the laundry one day, we were remarking on dad’s underwear. We were pre-teens and Mom had just taught us the finer points of sewing with a blind stitch. It was really my sister’s idea but I readily joined in. She suggested that it might be bad for a man if the flap in a man’s underwear was sewn shut. We decided it would be a great joke and fun to find out. Normal people would have put the blind stitched underwear on the top of stack in the drawer, but not us. We put it about three garments down so that it would take a few days for him to come upon it. We waited a week till we couldn’t contain ourselves any longer and asked if he had had any bathroom mishaps lately. He got that crooked smile on his face and said, “No problems that I would tell YOU two about.” We laughed and laughed imagining the drama. Sometimes imagination is better than the real situation anyway.
One day I was sitting with him and watching one of the little toddlers in her onesie shuffle away from us. He said, “Lookie thar,” pointing to her. “Looks like two squirrels in a sack, don’t it?” That struck me as funny because, one I’ve never seen two squirrels in a sack but I can imagine that’s how they look. Two, I’ll never be able to look at my baby’s back-side the same way again.
April Fool’s Day
The year my Dad passed was a particularly heavy year for me. Dad had been diagnosed with a brain tumor and was operated on in November. My teenage daughters decided to go live with their father in June and by December, dad was gone. That next April 1st, I woke up and realized that I had been a zombie going through the motions all winter. I felt like if I didn’t laugh that day, that I would die. So being April Fools Day, I got up and planned some practical jokes to play on my sweet teenage step-children.
I knew that my step-daughter would be first to get up and she would stumble into the bathroom and plop herself down without turning on the light or even opening her eyes. I had seen this happen so many times before. So I quickly went to the kitchen and retrieved the honey and the scotch tape. I smeared honey on the toilet seat and taped the toilet paper roll so that you can’t find the end (don’t you just hate that?). Then I went into the living room to wait for the bomb to go off. It didn’t take long. The anticipation built when I heard her roll out of bed and shuffle into the bathroom. Pause. Wait for it. “Hey, Mom, something is on the…. Eeeww, it’s honey!” That’s when I started laughing. I laughed and laughed. It was such an unfamiliar sound that my precious step-son rushed out of his room in total concern. He must have thought I had a psychotic break or something. But when he discovered true mirth and I said “April Fools,” then it was on. I never found out if my step-daughter smelled the honey or tasted it but it was funnier to imagine. We spent the rest of the day pulling great joke after joke on each other.
I mostly think that if someone has to get hurt for a joke, then it isn't a funny joke.
Kids are cute.... but...
Laughter is good medicine.
My son took the screws out of the refrigerator handle and attached it with honey so that when I went to open the fridge, I stood there looking at the closed door with a handle in my hand. A handle, I might add, that was difficult to let go of because it was covered with honey. (The honey got quite the workout that day). He even took the screws out of the hinges of the bathroom door so that opening it meant you had to hold it up or be crushed by it… all while needing the facilities inside the room. Early in the day I put the whole basket of spare socks rolled into balls into the foot of my son’s bed. When he thought the day was over and he slid into bed, he found many lumps. He came out with armloads of socks and said, “Good one, Mom.”
Good practical jokes are worth millions of dollars of therapy. It is true, Laughter is good medicine.