Laugh Tracks in the Dust 8-30-10 |

Laugh Tracks in the Dust 8-30-10

Some practical jokes are so good – or bad, perhaps – that the perpetrator just has to let multiple decades go by before he feels comfortable talking about them. For example, it’s pretty safe to tell about a practical joke after all the folks involved are deceased, ‘cept for one!

That’s why my good friend Shep from Missouri sent me a letter a couple of weeks ago describing his long-ago practical joke. It happened 67 years ago because it happened in the year I wuz born. Here’s the gist of Shep’s letter:

Milo, this is a true story from the very distant past – October 1943 to be exact. I don’t know if I was very stupid or if it was a very dirty trick. Probably both.

I was, as well as the other three boys, 14 years old. We were Kelly, Bob, ‘Dutch’ and myself. We were in junior high school in a small Missouri town along Old Highway 66 about 60 miles southwest of St. Louis.

Now, in that town lived the elderly widow of the banker, Mr. Fisher, who was very prominent in the community for many years. His widow, Mrs. Fisher, lived in a huge old home. The lawn and flowers were always just so – immaculate. The huge lot was surrounded by a fancy wrought iron fence. She did not like dogs or cats.

Now to the facts! Jeanie, a classmate, had a very favorite cat and lived in the same block as Mrs. Fisher. One day her cat disappeared. Who was to blame for the cat’s disappearance? No doubt in we boys’ minds, it was Mrs. Fisher – and she had to pay!

As luck would have it, we boys knew where there was a freshly-dead burro. We decided Mrs. Fisher should have that dead burro.

Of course, none of us had a driver’s license, but we did have access to a 1935 pickup truck that belonged to Kelly’s father, who hauled livestock to the stockyards in St. Louis pretty frequently. That pickup was available!

So, about 9 p.m. that night we were off to pick up that dead burro. No way we could have done that task if we’d had to, but we ‘wanted to,’ so we got the dead critter loaded up and covered with a tarp very quickly.

Back to town we went through the alleyways so we wouldn’t be seen or caught. We parked in the alley behind Mrs. Fisher’s home. We somehow managed to unload that burrow and drag it through Mrs. Fisher’s yard and up on her front porch.

There were no lights on in her home, but she did have a door bell on her door. That door bell was one of the old mechanical kind that had to be wound up by hand. We cranked it long and hard, up to the max, and let it loose. Oh, did it make a loud racket!

We hardly hit the ground back to that pickup truck and we skedaddled out of the neighborhood as quickly and quietly as we could. The pickup went back where we found it. We pledged ourselves to mutual secrecy and we went our separate ways.

Naturally, the dead burro was the topic of our small town for quite some time.

I don’t believe that any of us four ever breathed a word about our practical joke to each other, or anyone else. Eventually, the furor died down. The perpetrators were never caught!

My family moved to Colorado later that year and I was certainly glad that the truth was never known by my parents.

I guess the guilt finally caught up with me in the form of this letter. Plus, I reckon it’s safe to tell because my three co-conspirators, and Mrs. Fisher, are no longer above ground.

Besides, I’m 81 and I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations for my practical joke expired long ago.


Hoo, boy, that wuz a good practical joke. Wish I’d been involved. But then again, if I’d been involved, we’d probably have gotten caught and our hides tanned. Thanks for sending the story to me, Shep, and hope you’re feeling fine and enjoy many more birthdays and maybe a few more practical jokes.


Another friend sent me an e-mail with tips on living the good life. Here are a few of his tips:

• Don’t compare your life to others. You have no idea what their journey is all about.

• Invest your energy in the positive present moment. Don’t take yourself so seriously. No one else does.

• Dream more while you are awake.

• Make peace with your past so it won’t spoil the present.

• No one is in charge of your happiness except you.


I hope I’ve put a little happiness into your life for this week. Consider the above my words of wisdom for this week.

Have a good ‘un.

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