It’s Howdy Doody time!

Howdy Doody

This is something about this time of year that makes me so juvenile.

Thank goodness, however, at least 85 percent of the year, I remain low key. I’m a quiet person. I rarely speak. People accuse me of being shy. I’m not.

I’m just an observer. I write, so I’m always taking notes. Who knows? The next person I meet may just show up in my next story.

It’s the other 15 percent of the time I have to worry about. I’m so juvenile during this time that I annoy myself. 

But, hey, I can’t resist a good prank.

Many years ago Kenny and I worked with a small church outside of Manchester. Our nonexistent youth budget allowed us no luxuries like camps or concerts, so we made our own fun. We only had a few kids in our youth group—all of them are now grown adults and several of them our very good friends. To have fun, we occasionally invited the crew to go out for pizza, or we held casual get-togethers in our home.

I remember one occasion vividly. My older son Josh was just a toddler at the time, and we decided to meet our youth group kids at Pizza Hut for a Saturday get together. We ordered our meals and had a great time just sitting around talking. But that wasn’t enough.

We had to ramp up the excitement. It didn’t take long for me and Kenny to devise a plan. He was supposed to go outside and hide behind the cars and then spring up and surprise the unsuspecting teens. My job was to detain them just long enough for him to get situated.

Simple enough.

When it was time to leave, we all got up, sans Kenny, who was already outside, plotting. I told the kids he had to go check on something. It wasn’t really a lie because he was checking on something—his hiding spot.

When we exited the building, I couldn’t find Kenny. The brothers who owned the car were chatting non stop, telling our group this or that, not paying attention to me or their car. I tuned them out, worried because I couldn’t find my husband.

Then I saw it—a small, wooden Howdy Doody doll, rising up and down out of the backseat of the brothers’ car. (Then I remembered that one of the two brothers was a collector of antiques.)

My juvenile tendencies took over, and I was trying hard to hold back my giggles. I knew Kenny was hiding in the backseat of the car and was helping Howdy Doody find his way into the back window. The problem was I couldn’t sync the boys’ attention with the rise of Howdy Doody.

Every time I made them look in the direction of the car, Howdy Doody fell down. When they turned back toward me, Howdy Doody rose again. Finally, Kenny caught my attention, and the look on his face told me he was giving up. I shrugged, ready to call it quits too.

The boys finished their conversation and walked over to their car. As one of them prepared to open the driver’s door, Kenny and Howdy Doody both popped up out of the backseat, unaware that the driver’s door was about to open.

I don’t know who was more startled.

Never before had I heard such high notes coming out of such masculine bodies. The brothers were screaming bloody murder, and the youth director was out of the car and on his knees in the Pizza Hut parking lot, erupting in laughter.

The other Pizza Hut customers didn’t know what to make of the situation. I think a few of them may have been trying to flag down the police.

My poor little Josh was in tears because his daddy was rolling around in the parking lot, and the two boys from the youth group were in total freak-out mode. I couldn’t even comfort him because I couldn’t breathe. It was too funny.

So, yes, I’m juvenile—but only 15 percent of the time. I’m good the other 85 percent, downright austere if need be. But I come by it honestly. Most of my aunts and uncles on the Bell side are pranksters. We like to laugh.

I know I shouldn’t, but you have to admit there is small bit of enjoyment that comes with terrifying the younger generation.

Many, many years ago, one of my best students made a Julius Caesar bust out of clay. She painted it in bronze and turned it in for a stellar grade. I know it’s not natural for a teacher to use student projects as torture devices, but, hey, if the situation presents itself….

As much as I liked the bust of Julius Caesar, it kind of creeped me out. You see, it’s a little on the demonic side. I think it’s because the bust doesn’t really have eyes. It’s just weird.

Et tu Brute?

One evening we met with our youth group, including the same two brothers. They stayed late to talk about some pretty heavy topics.

As much as I tried to hold it back, I ran with the idea and took Julius out to their car and positioned him behind the steering wheel so that he was looking out the driver’s window.

It was close to midnight, the witching hour, when the guys left our house. Our topic of conversation had turned to the supernatural. We were all feeling a little bit spooked. You can only imagine the look on their faces when demonic Julius looked at them with his non-eyes. It was so funny!

Or maybe you just had to have been there.

I’m just thankful that both of them have forgiven me, but it’s not like they didn’t try to retaliate. Thank goodness we’ve matured into responsible adults, who have no time for such tom foolery. Well, two of us four have matured into responsible adults, sans the tom foolery. The remaining two still occasionally plot.

As for Julius Caesar, he still gets around. He spent a little time with these same boys, who thought it might be funny to surprise their mother by placing him in her bathroom late one night. She didn’t get their humor.

Julius is back at home now, but now that my two sons have grown into pranksters themselves, he occasionally sports costumes and shows up in random places in our house. Right now he sits above our washer and dryer and wears a rock star black wig and a funky looking straw hat that reminds me of a British pith helmet.

He’s just waiting–waiting for my 15 percent of tom foolery to kick in.

Julius Rocker in a Pith Helmet