Southern Practical Joker

I grew up in the rural area of DeKalb County, Alabama. Every year our cousins on our mother’s side came down to visit from Middletown, Ohio. So for those of you who remember the City Mouse and the Country Mouse story, you’ll understand how our upbringings in different environments naturally made it much easier for me to set our cousins up for the best practical joke ever.

Now, before anyone gets the idea that what I concocted was right out mean-spirited, let me give you some backstory to explain why we did this, and more amazingly, why my younger sister played along with it.

My sister and I were in our early teenage years, and our cousins always came down while we were at school. Their spring break was often a week or more away from ours, and we cringed whenever the bus approached our house and their RV was in the yard. Now, I’m not saying this is like Cousin Eddie in the Chevy Chase Vacation movies because it wasn’t even close. The reason our stomachs turned at the sight of the RV wasn’t because we didn’t enjoy our aunt and uncle’s visit, we did, but it was because we knew our rooms had been totally wrecked. Mostly, my sister’s room felt the wrath of our cousins, and this time wasn’t any different.

Each time they visited, it looked like a hurricane had blasted through my sister’s window and tossed everything. These two girls, one of which was older than my sister, dumped all my sister’s toys onto the middle of the floor, and then emptied each of her dresser drawers of clothes and other things onto the floor as well. A hurricane couldn’t have done much worse. And yet, with all this stuff piled on the floor, they had never bothered to play with any of it. Who ended up cleaning this mess up? You guessed it. Us. Not our cousins. Us.

I decided the one year that enough was enough. To get even for their outrageous disrespect for our belongings and trashing our rooms, I devised the ultimate plan to get a little bit of harmless revenge. I told them that my sister and I were going to pick blackberries, even though it was still a month or more before they’d even be ripe. They didn’t know that, and it didn’t really matter.

My sister and I took small plastic ice cream containers and headed down the dirt road. At first, they didn’t want to go, and we told them that they should stay at the house because this was too dangerous for two city kids to do. This, of course, intrigued them, and suddenly they’d have absolutely died if they didn’t get to go. Reverse psychology bait, or as we say in the South, “Hook, line, and sinker.”

“No,” I said, “You need to stay here because there are hunters out there. Where we’re going, it’s dangerous because they don’t like us picking their berries. They’ll shoot us.”

The older of our cousins frowned and said, “You’re lying! I know you’re lying! We’re going to go, too.”

“Okay, but I’m telling you to watch out for hunters.”

“You’re a liar!” she said.

So along they came following us down the dirt road. Midway down the dirt road, we crossed a fence into a pasture. A small grove of pine trees was in the center of the pasture. Blackberry briars clung to the side of the trees like a prickly wall.

What our cousins didn’t know was that in my jeans pocket I had tucked two pull firework poppers. These were small firecrackers with strings attached at each end. When you yanked the strings, the center part exploded with a loud sound, which sounded like a gunshot. I had told my sister that I had them. The plan was I’d pull the first one and pretend I had been shot. After I fell, she was to run and yell for help, then I’d fire the second one. This genius plan worked but not exactly as I had thought.

As I faced the blackberries, I said, “Watch for hunters. I’m going to start picking.”

“You’re lying!” my cousin yelled. “There are no hunters.”

I slid out the first popper from my pocket and yanked the strings hard. BAM!

I immediately fell onto the ground face-first, catching my cousin’s bewildered, wide-eyed gaze as I dropped. Her mouth dropped open, and she looked bug-eyed. It was too much. I got tickled. To prevent myself from laughing, I held my breath, and that made me look like I was having convulsions. My entire body jerked with spasms while I held in my laughter.

My sister went into theatrical mode and took off running. “Hunters! Hunters! Run!”

My cousin simply stood there with a gaping mouth and her eyes darted back and forth. She didn’t know whether to run or not. Meanwhile, I continued fighting my urge to laugh and my body jerked even more. Suddenly, I realized that I needed to pull the other firework’s strings to set off the next ‘gunshot.’ I fished the string out and yanked. BAM!

My sister made a cry of pain and fell backwards onto the ground without hesitation. Unlike me, she didn’t move, but I couldn’t hold my laughter any more. I rolled over onto my back and wailed with laughter. My sister opened her eyes and laughed.

“I knew you were lying!” was our cousin’s response.

“Yeah, sure you did,” we both replied.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, her facial expression had been worth a million. Perhaps it didn’t compensate for all the work we had to do to clean up our rooms, but it was satisfying.

Country kids: 1. City kids: 0.


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