Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. No Tricks, Please!

 

Remember Halloween? The homes that dropped sweets into our open and eager (paper) bags? The elastic string that held the flimsy Mickey Mouse or Goofy or Sleeping Beauty masks to our sweaty faces? For the rural among us, the eighth- or quarter-mile hike between houses, rewarded not with prepackaged bits of candy bars, but with candy apples, chocolate chip cookies, old maid-less popcorn balls, candy corn in baggies (no zip-locks), candy cigarettes, Chiclets, Necco Wafers, Bazooka Bubble Gum, and – glory of glories – whole candy bars, Snickers and Baby Ruth and Three Musketeers? 

Remember the gags? The water balloons? The tipped outhouses? The eggings? Ding dong ditch? (OK, one tipped outhouse, and it no longer “in service.”)

Remember the friends who did outlandish things–like the guy who climbed the radio tower at the high school, and then unfurled a homemade sheet/flag that looked like this:

And the two guys who outdid him, by climbing a 100-foot mast light tower at the football stadium and affixing a giant “KOOP – LEISTNER” banner to the backside of the array? They are heroes to me.

Or the three guys who broke into the French and German classroom, removed a fluorescent light cover, painted the cover and returned it, so that come next Monday the teacher entered the classroom and saw something like this:

The past included both tricks and treats. The tricks have increasingly disappeared. They have become crimes: Vandalism, destruction of private property, B&E, and so on. Had the perpetrators been caught then, the sanctions would have been light: a scolding, an apology, the restoration of damages, or something like this:

The price of good, sort-of-innocent fun is higher these days. I have no doubt that now those acts of frivolity would result in fines and maybe a few nights (or more) in the hoosegow. I mean, prison. Gone are the clink, pokey, slammer, lockup, coop. We are serious now.

What happened? The usual suspects. The revolution of the ’60s (sexual and otherwise) destroyed mores, ending the need for teens to sublimate their energy in other more and less risky behavior. Progressive policies led to the breakdown of mediating institutions, which understood the difference between good fun and thuggish behavior. At the same time, by treating individuals not as individuals but as representatives of a social class, those policies eroded the communities that knew how to deal with their own. The increasing litigiousness of society forced authorities to cover their you-know-whats, and treat Jimmy the impish teen the same as Jimmy the loutish bully.

So, no more tricks. I mourn their loss. Fortunately, we have cell phones and video games. Our misguided youth can find outlets for fun there, some healthier, some not so much. Plus, they aren’t out on the streets. We can all breathe a sigh of relief.

But when our daughter, during homecoming week, stepped out of our house and joined some classmates to TP a few trees, and stick forks in a few lawns, and write a few words about another class in sidewalk chalk outside their homes, I was proud and humbled at the same time. Maybe we raised her right after all.

Just don’t tell her that.

By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

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There are 27 comments.

  1. Arahant Member

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    • #1
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:08 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    Too busy reading to TP?

    Where are you from, again?

    • #2
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  3. KentForrester Coolidge

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    So you’ve always been a NERD! If you were here right now, I would give you a Dutch rub. 

    • #3
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:30 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  4. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    Too busy reading to TP?

    Where are you from, again?

    Well, I was out once with the middle brother and some of his friends when they did it, but that was my only experience.

    • #4
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  5. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    So you’ve always been a NERD! If you were here right now, I would give you a Dutch rub.

    Noogies. He’s got noogies coming.

    • #5
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:34 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  6. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    Too busy reading to TP?

    Where are you from, again?

    Well, I was out once with the middle brother and some of his friends when they did it, but that was my only experience.

    It seems to have died down somewhat after a bit. I don’t think my sister was TPed, but I was.

    • #6
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    Percival (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    So you’ve always been a NERD! If you were here right now, I would give you a Dutch rub.

    Noogies. He’s got noogies coming.

    One Halloween the town cop came over to the house to pick me up just before dark. He wouldn’t say what he wanted and Mamma Skinner wasn’t happy, but it turned out to be the most fun I ever had on Halloween.

    • #7
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:54 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  8. Percival Thatcher
    Percival Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):

    Percival (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    So you’ve always been a NERD! If you were here right now, I would give you a Dutch rub.

    Noogies. He’s got noogies coming.

    One Halloween the town cop came over to the house to pick me up just before dark. He wouldn’t say what he wanted and Mamma Skinner wasn’t happy, but it turned out to be the most fun I ever had on Halloween.

    Preemptive detention? That would take away all the fun of running from @arahant’s dad all night.

    • #8
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:01 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  9. DrewInWisconsin, Oaf Coolidge

    James Hageman:

    But when our daughter, during homecoming week, stepped out of our house and joined some classmates to TP a few trees, and stick forks in a few lawns, and write a few words about another class in sidewalk chalk outside their homes, I was proud and humbled at the same time. Maybe we raised her right after all.

    Just don’t tell her that.

    I’ve always tried to encourage a little innocent rebellion in my children to provide a foundation for questioning authority — a very necessary skill.

    • #9
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:17 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    I don’t think my sister was TPed, but I was.

    Yeah, I think that was the one…

    • #10
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:23 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Arahant Member

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):
    One Halloween the town cop came over to the house to pick me up just before dark. He wouldn’t say what he wanted and Mamma Skinner wasn’t happy, but it turned out to be the most fun I ever had on Halloween.

    You TPed the town with the cop?

    • #11
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:24 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  12. Kephalithos Member

    James Hageman: So no more tricks. I mourn their loss.

    I don’t.

    Your entitlement to youthful stupidity ends at my wallet. Want to throw eggs at my door? Fine, but you get to deal with the mess, and you get to pay for new paint.

    Why should I be forced to subsidize someone’s inability to act like a civilized human being?

    • #12
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:30 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  13. Seawriter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    James Hageman: By the way, I disavow any personal knowledge of any and all of the other acts in this post.

    My brothers did stuff like that. I was too busy reading.

    I managed to do both. Got some of my best ideas from books.

    • #13
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:41 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  14. PHenry Member

    James Hageman: What happened?

    Hell night ruined the ‘prank’. It got way out of hand, and the broken window theory came in to effect. 

    • #14
    • October 15, 2019, at 6:45 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  15. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    I keep it going. When I go to the door to hand out goodies, I ask the kids to do a trick for their treat. It could be as simple as doing a little dance. They laugh, and I hand out the candy.

    • #15
    • October 15, 2019, at 7:25 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  16. Susan Quinn Contributor

    What a fun post, James! I won’t tell a soul . . .

    I grew up in southern California and was a loner, so no one invited me to do anything. But my husband did LOTS of things; I don’t think he’s ever described all of them to me. He did tell me about the time they “stole”the Police Chief, Elmer’s, police car. I don’t remember if Elmer called his mother that time or not, since it was Halloween after all! (He grew up in a little town in northern Kentucky.)

    • #16
    • October 15, 2019, at 8:56 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    Arahant (View Comment):

    Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler (View Comment):
    One Halloween the town cop came over to the house to pick me up just before dark. He wouldn’t say what he wanted and Mamma Skinner wasn’t happy, but it turned out to be the most fun I ever had on Halloween.

    You TPed the town with the cop?

    Soaped some windows nice an heavy. He had a couple of people he thought needed pranked. He provided the targets, soap, and distraction. 

    • #17
    • October 15, 2019, at 9:54 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  18. Jimmy Carter Member
    Jimmy Carter Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    No mention of mooning cars? 

    • #18
    • October 15, 2019, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  19. Tex929rr Coolidge

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    James Hageman: So no more tricks. I mourn their loss.

    I don’t.

    Your entitlement to youthful stupidity ends at my wallet. Want to throw eggs at my door? Fine, but you get to deal with the mess, and you get to pay for new paint.

    Why should I be forced to subsidize someone’s inability to act like a civilized human being?

    • #19
    • October 15, 2019, at 10:52 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  20. Kephalithos Member

    Tex929rr (View Comment)

    I don’t usually like photos of myself, but this is an exception. It captures my personality perfectly.

    Now, get off my lawn!

    • #20
    • October 15, 2019, at 1:01 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  21. The Reticulator Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    Tex929rr (View Comment):

    I don’t usually like photos of myself, but this is an exception. It captures my personality perfectly.

    Now, get off my lawn!

    I dunno. Is that necktie really curmudgeonly enough?

    • #21
    • October 15, 2019, at 1:14 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Cow Girl Thatcher

    Where I grew up in Wyoming, it was almost 7000 feet in elevation, so it was snowing on most Halloween Nights. We just went to the church for a costume party and got our candy there.

    But that did not preclude pranks on other days of the year, when the weather was more hospitable.

    • #22
    • October 15, 2019, at 2:23 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Tex929rr Coolidge

    The high school where I taught (Comfort, TX) has a stand alone bell tower that is sort of an architectural homage to the original school building across town. It doesn’t have a bell or any sort of noise making device in it. But it’s the perfect place for seniors to hang a banner or perform some other non-destructive prank. I pointedly told some senior groups over the years that I was surprised no class had ever pranked the bell tower. Scads of smart ranch kids who know how to do mechanical things. And now, 23 years after the school opened, no one has ever pranked it. Maybe that’s just not a thing anymore.

    • #23
    • October 15, 2019, at 3:08 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  24. Bryan G. Stephens Thatcher
    Bryan G. Stephens Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Kephalithos (View Comment):

    James Hageman: So no more tricks. I mourn their loss.

    I don’t.

    Your entitlement to youthful stupidity ends at my wallet. Want to throw eggs at my door? Fine, but you get to deal with the mess, and you get to pay for new paint.

    Why should I be forced to subsidize someone’s inability to act like a civilized human being?

    I am with you 100%.

    TP a yard, and you steal time from them, time they cannot get back, to clean it. It is harm to that person. 

    If I found out my children did it, they would be forced to apologize, in person to the people they harmed. 

    It is never OK to Harm someone who poses no threat to you. 

    If I lived in a libertarian fantasy, utopia, my private police would hunt people down for this sort of thing. My goal would be to make such an example of the offenders that no one would ever think to do such a thing to me again. 

    And you can post funny pictures about it all you want, and think I am overreacting. Fine. But the fact that these “pranks” or “tricks” actually result in harm to another human being cannot be denied. To support them is to support doing harm to another human being who poses no threat, and does not deserve it. 

    At least be honest you support hurting innocent people as you celebrate these sorts of activities. 

    • #24
    • October 15, 2019, at 3:12 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    I agree that we have seen both:

    • the guardrails coming off behaviors, so that pranks became more than pranks, and
    • criminalization of youthful behavior, such that the mildest of pranks is likely now a violation of some city ordinance, if not state or federal law.

    This treasury of tricks is part of October’s theme: “Trick or Treat!

    Keep it up! Treat yourself and your friends to a post, nothing tricky about it. Our schedule and sign-up sheet awaits.

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #25
    • October 15, 2019, at 3:24 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  26. Arahant Member

    Bryan G. Stephens (View Comment):
    If I found out my children did it, they would be forced to apologize, in person to the people they harmed. 

    My eldest brother and one of his buddies got caught TPing a home. The man of the house saw them and recognized them and made some phone calls. Brother got home and was asked, “Did you TP Mr. R’s house?”

    “Uh…”

    “Wouldn’t you and your buddy like to go and clean up the mess you made?”

    So, they went back, and of course, they had thrown rolls of TP up in and over the trees, so they had to climb up the trees and get them. The other kid was smaller and lighter, so he could climb higher. As he started gathering the TP from the branches, he sang, “Bringing in the sheets…”

    • #26
    • October 15, 2019, at 5:51 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  27. BastiatJunior Member

    James Hageman: (OK, one tipped outhouse, and it no longer “in service.”)

    A boy tipped over the outhouse in his own back yard.

    Later, the boy’s father approached him looking very angry.

    “Did you push over the outhouse!!?” the father demanded.

    Scared, the boy thought of George Washington, who escaped punishment by telling the truth about the cherry tree.

    The boy mustered all the courage he had.

    “I cannot tell a lie,” said the boy, “It was I who pushed over the outhouse!”

    With that, the father picked up a switch and gave the boy the worst whipping he ever had.

    The boy, between sniffs, said, “Why!? When George Washington told the truth about chopping down the cherry tree, his father didn’t whip him!”

    “George Washington’s father wasn’t IN the cherry tree!” his father replied. 

    Be careful this Halloween.

    • #27
    • October 16, 2019, at 3:26 PM PDT
    • 6 likes