In which the author employs a vehicle for various impish activities.
by Mike Smith
Since the statute of limitations has expired on my youth, there are certain stories I can now divulge. The typical high school aged boy, after all, wields a certain kind of genius.
I remember so fondly my own little late-night ingenuity. My best friend in high school was a guy named Al. He and I were practically Siamese twins. We were in choir together, I lived at his house for a couple of months one summer, and we even went in on the ’52 Chev together.
I like to remember some of the clever little things we used to do to keep our insomniac selves entertained. My claim to fame was a unique ability to mentally rearrange the letters from a reader board sign to change the message. One night I changed a local Chevron gas station’s sign from “Get ready for winter now” to “Get windier, fart now.” It stayed that way for a couple of days. I think all 560 kids in my graduating class drove by to see it. Instant celebrity ensued. Al told everyone who did it. He is a good friend but don’t tell him any secrets.
Al had a rare genius for impishness. He is an adult now, and is a pretty successful sales guy. We don’t hang out much simply due to the fact that adult life is more time-constraining. When we do hang out, though, it is like we were never apart.
I’ll never forget one night. Everyone who reads this will no doubt remember toilet paper raids. For kids of our time, those were nights when we would go out and buy a case of toilet paper rolls and stream them over houses, cars, livestock, or anything within the arc of the dome as it were. This was to us a harmless yet meaningful prank that showed just how much we thought of you.
So one night we were cruising around Pac-Hwy and decided to shower our affections on a mutual female friend of ours who lived in Marine Hills. We put Al up to buying the accouterments of our signature prank. I went to get another friend. When I finally got to the house, the arcing paper streams were already in full bloom. We barely had time to make our contribution.
As we were getting ready to leave, Al took it upon himself to add a little something special. We watched in wonder as he lugged a huge bag of dry Purina dog chow up the driveway and proceed to pour it out on the front lawn and driveway. We marveled at the uniquely ingenious randomness of the idea. A crunchy little exclamation point to our outing!
Now, our choir director was a jovial yet stern perfectionist who consistently led our choirs to many awards. He was also a judge for other statewide choir contests. One time he was asked to adjudicate at a small school contest in southwest Washington. One of the school choirs at this particular venue was the Mossyrock High School Concert Choir. Apparently their performance piece for this competition was their school fight song, in out-of-tune unison.
Ours, by contrast, was an award-winning high school choir that actually competed at invitationals at the University of Washington and other colleges around the state. We sang college-level pieces and had at least one piece commissioned for us. But when we heard the report of this little tiny school singing their clueless hearts out, we chortled a chorus of a different type.
But since high schoolers are an inconsistent bunch, we did not always sing like an award-winning choir in rehearsals. One such rehearsal we were not doing well and our director scolded us and told us we sounded like the Mossyrock choir. We were suitably shamed.
But of course our genius impishness was peeved and our little band of late-night TP groupies decided on a plan.
We decided to leave work at 2:00 am—Al and I worked at the same restaurant, too—and drive in my Chevy Nova to Mossyrock. The plan, if we chose to accept it, was to make a statement about just what exactly we felt about our shaming in choir that day.
We decided to put Al in charge of the tools needed for the deed since he had done such a creative job of applying the dog food addition to our last outing. I was the designated driver. Lyle was the other guy, just to give credit.
We were all completely sober, since we were only high school kids, after all. Plus, we knew we were going to be driving late into the next morning just to get back to school on time. Our estimate was a quick two hours down and and back from Mossyrock to Federal Way… er, Redondo. Or actually, I am not saying where we were driving back to.
Al, we discovered, was not suited to anything mechanical. Our plan was to steal a sign by unbolting it from the posts it was attached to. So we kind of discussed a few wrenches to do this with. Perhaps a saw if we had to cut into the wood. Well, Al got a wrench all right… just one.
As most of you know, you need another wrench to hold the back side of the bolt in place. Otherwise the bolt just spins and nothing comes loose. But, Al brought the saw as we requested. It’s just that he brought a hacksaw. You can not cut wood with a hacksaw. It took two hours to cut the sign down.
While two of us worked like a couple of lumber jacks on the wooden sign posts, one of us would keep an eye out for oncoming cars so we would not get caught. You know what? There is a lot of traffic in and out of Mossy Rock at 4 o’clock in the morning. But, at about six o’clock we got the sign down and tossed it in the trunk of the car. We drove back home in the snowy freezing foggy weather. I was never so happy to finally get onto I-5 where we could actually see the road.
We barely made it back to school in time to sneak into the choir room and install our “catch.” We didn’t get any sleep but adrenaline and anticipation kept us going that day. Choir class was late in the day but despite our increasingly groggy condition, when we walked in that afternoon, it was glorious. Attached to the wall above the director’s head was a huge street sign that said, “Welcome to Mossyrock.”