Dad was a real prankster.
He would send me into the hardware store with instructions to ask the store proprietor where the “striped paint” was. Another time it was for “skyhooks.” And at the grocery store, “scratch” because he said, “your Mom cooks everything from scratch.” At age five and six, I was the perfect straight man for his gags. I fell for them every time to the amusement of the shop owners.
One Christmas, he presented an onyx cocktail ring to my mother by sliding it onto a cigar. But, another time, it was an anniversary ring slipped over a tampon. I was too young to know what a tampon was, and my mother was embarrassed—you should see the home movies!
We spent a summer in Holland, Michigan, when I was 13. Dad was working on his master’s degree at Hope College. Like a lot of college students, Dad liked to pull pranks. He had a classmate who was from Texas. One day, Dad played “The Eyes of Texas are upon you” each time his friend spoke in class.
Spending the summer at Hope College was a lot of fun for my sister and me. The grad students in the program were all working high school science teachers with families. The college provided these families with housing in the dorms. I was 13 and excited to be living in a dorm. My sister and I shared one room, and my parents the room across the hall.
Dad had as much fun living in the dorm as my sister and me. Dad, the student, pulled pranks on his dorm mates. He short-sheeted their beds and placed crumbled crackers between their sheets. He put Vaseline on the men’s room toilet seats or Saran wrap over the toilet seats in the community bathrooms.
Sometimes revenge is sweet. One morning my parents opened their door to find that soda cans (full ones) were stacked from the floor to the top of their door frame. Dad was late to class from taking down the soda cans.
His quirky sense of humor carried over to the classroom. Dad taught high school chemistry and physics. He was especially fond of his AP students (one went on to work at NASA). If one of his students wasn’t paying attention in class, “Mr. Ragland” got out his water gun. A squirt of water got the student’s attention every time. I understand the AP students surprised him one day with their own water guns, and they all had a gunfight during class.
Dad was an avid outdoorsman—loved hunting and fishing. He had this wooden toy duck on a stick to roll or “walk” through the halls during the passing periods between classes. His hunting buddy (the English teacher across the hall) had one too, so they would walk their ducks together.
During class, he would get out his duck call only to have Mr. Reel quack back with his duck call.
One year, his AP students presented Dad with a pair of baby ducks named Graham and Quacker. My sister and I loved them, but when they grew older and larger–too large to live inside our house, Dad took them to live on a farm as they were not city ducks, he explained.
Those are just a few of the memories I have of my father and his fun-loving side. What about your father? What jokes or pranks did he or you pull? I’d love to hear them. Please write back with them.
Debora Ragland Buerk
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