Picking on people comes naturally to me. My father was the king of humor, pranks, and shenanigans. Nobody was spared. I grew up never knowing if anything he said was to be taken seriously and respected or if I was in danger of mortal embarrassment.
Injuries were also known to happen as a result of his pranks. I, myself, was traumatized a few times and I know I was not alone. Yet, despite the pranks that failed, his humor has been the theme of his memory since his death. I have not heard many, if any, anecdotes that did not center around some joke he played on someone.
In his memory, I would like to put these pranks in writing. At least the ones that caused the most laughter and/or trauma. Has a dent in the world was not huge to all, but it was to me.
This prank was not only done by him, but was and is used widely in the south. In particular, it is used on city people or people that aren’t familiar with hunting or wildlife.
He would invite and hype up some new recruit to go snipe hunting. They would wake up at 6 am and dress up all in camouflage. Outfitted with black paint all over their face and twigs in their hair, they would all tote a canvas or burlap bag and a stick into the darkness. Dad would drop the newbie off at “his tree” with some convoluted instructions on how to trap and kill said snipe. Seeing as how snipe doesn’t exist, the newbie would be left by the tree for hours while the rest went back to bed.
This was widely considered to be the unofficial initiation into our family for a long time.
For as long as I can remember, my father worked at funeral homes. He would collect the dead during all hours, prepare cadavers, set up funerals, and many other things that go into the business of death.
As a child, I would have to go with him in the middle of the night often to collect the bodies. At first, I was terrified and he played upon that a great deal. But, he taught me invaluable advice which was not to be scared of the dead. It’s the living that hurt you.
The staff at the funeral home were very professional and were good at what they did. They were caring towards the bereaved and respectful at all times. When the home was empty and free of any services though, they brought the morale from depressing to fun in a variety of ways.
At my father’s funeral, the staff told stories about the number of new employees they had lost due to my father hiding in the storage trays, for the dead, during the new employee’s tour of the new workplace. When said employee got close, the tour guide would pull out the tray that my father was hiding in and my father would jump up and scare the ever loving shit out of them. It was priceless, but also traumatic.
That phrase, priceless, but traumatic, explains my father and my childhood to a tee.
In today’s times, this would have landed my father in jail, but the eighties were a different time with different rules. He loved to hoist me up onto the roof of my grandmother’s mobile home. After encouraging me to carefully look around, he would disappear. I would be stuck on the roof from minutes to, what felt like, hours.
Personally, I didn’t enjoy this as much as he did.
One of his other pranks got him in trouble with my grandmother. I was around seven years old and taking a bubble bath in her garden tub which was the epitome of luxury back then. My dad came in to check on me and pulls a turtle out from behind his back. I was terrified of turtles because my dad liked to talk about snapping turtles very frequently. He said that if you were bitten by one, you had to wait for lightning before you could get it off.
Of course, in my child’s mind, I immediately was imagining how tough my life would be with a turtle dangling from my finger for months on end.
So as any terrified child would do I jumped out of the tub and immediately fell and smashed a hole in the sheet rock with my elbow. Which caused my grandmother to get mad at him because ruining her house is taking it too far. Apparently my sanity was fair game.
It’s been 12 years since his death and I miss his sense of humor more than anything no matter how traumatic it may have been at the time. I have inherited his ability to take life with a grain of salt. He and I both use humor and you to get through anything that life throws our way.
I look forward to seeing him again one day and I take comfort in knowing that my sister is up there in heaven with him now keeping him company. And, no, I don’t have any doubts that he made it there.
Some of these might explain my weirdness. My mom is not off the hook for that though, as she was also a factor in my personality.