Oh…The Pranks of Youth
I was recently sorting through some stuff that many of us have too much of, wondering if there was anything I could discard, when I came across some “stuff” I had accumulated at my 50th year high school graduation reunion(that reunion was ten years ago, by the way). As I remembered and reflected on the reunion, I was taken back to my high school days and some of the foolish shenanigans of youth we students staged.
One in particular, “The Science Field Trip,” comes to mind. Former students of Soda Springs High School who were there at the time may not remember my little tale exactly as I describe it, but remember, it was 63 years ago. They’ll just have to cut me some slack. 🙂
The year was the spring of 1951. There was a young math and science teacher at Soda Springs High School who had the admiration of the entire student body. He was a no nonsense teacher with a brilliant mind, was movie star handsome with coal black hair and baby blue eyes. He stood about six feet two, and had a body akin to that of Arnold Schwartzenegger. All the boys in school envied his build, and girls swooned and fainted whenever he entered the room.
The United States was involved in the Korean conflict at the time, and this young teacher, who I will refer to as Mr. “G,” was drafted; which meant the district had to find a replacement for him. He was replaced by Mr. “L,” who came with very high credentials; an A.B. in Chemistry, and an M.A. in teaching natural science from Columbia University. Sadly for him, these degrees had not prepared him for replacing a revered teacher at a small-town high school in Southeast Idaho.
Mr. L was the epitome of opposite to Mr. G. He was thin and small of stature, standing about five feet eight, weighing about 145, and he displayed a certain degree of insecurity and timidity. The entire student body soon picked up on his insecurity, and pretty much seized control of his classes. The football/soccer field was just outside our class room window, and we would exit through the window to the field and play soccer during Algebra class. If students weren’t out playing soccer they were up to numerous other antics.
The Science Field Trip I mentioned at the beginning of this post involved one of my science classes–Botany or Biology. We class members decided a “scientific” field trip was in order. We presented this idea to Mr. L, and with minimum difficulty, convinced him it was a necessary project. He made arrangement with administration and teachers to get us excused from our other classes for the day so we could do this trip. He was told that we would have to provide our own transportation. That in, itself, was enough to add chaos to the whole affair.
We decided on an area northwest of Soda Springs known as 90 per cent. The road to our destination involved ingressing and egressing a few private livestock pastures which were fenced and gated. Myself, Mr. L, and one other class member rode with one of my buddies in his dad’s ¾ ton Chevy pickup. It’s an unwritten rule of the West that whenever you come to a gated fence, the person riding on the outside opposite the driver opens and shuts the gates. Going in, I did this.
When we reached our destination, students scattered in all directions hardly to be seen again for several hours. The scientific field trip idea was just a ruse to get Mr. L. to go along with the idea. We had no intention of making anything out of it but a play day away from school. The mayhem of the next several hours provided my two companions and, myself, an opportunity to arrange a surprise for our Eastern tenderfoot. We decided that he should open and close the gates on our way home.
Of course being a “city boy,” and having never performed such a chore, he didn’t think too highly of our idea. But we convinced him it would be good experience for him. Learn some ways of the West to tell the folks back in New York about, if you will. I helped him with the first two gates to show him how it was done. With some trepidation, Mr. L managed the remaining gates.
The last gate was about two and half miles from our home destination. We watched to make certain that he had this last gate securely closed. My friend, who was driving, looked at me with a sly grin on his face, and said, “Whatta ya think, Will? Do we dare do it?” We all agreed, and drove off, leaving him to walk the rest of the way back to the school.
Our prank didn’t go unreported however, and I don’t know about the other two guys, but my part in it was not without consequences at home. Apart from the school principal getting involved and exacting punishment, if Dad saw any humor in what we had done, he didn’t share it with me. One of Dad’s steadfast rules was, you were to always show respect to your elders; insecure, timid school teachers included. One of his favorite disciplinary actions was to assign me to pick rocks by hand from the field or mend fence–or both. I spent the next two Saturdays between then and summer break, and the first two weeks of summer, doing these two least favorite of my chores. My memory is a little fussy about what the school did about our prank, but I think the class took a significant grade cut.
Our prank was only one of many humiliations meted out by the students of Soda High toward Mr. L. He finally reached his limit, and left town in the middle of the night before finishing his contract term. The teacher who replaced him, was as big as Mr. L was small, was as firm as Mr. L was not; and nobody at Soda Springs High School dared mess with Mr. Macho.
P.S. We did go back and pick Mr. L up after he had walked about a quarter mile or so.
Now, after all that, I’d like to tell you a little bit about my upcoming book, LouIsa—Iron Dove of the Frontier. She truly is an iron dove. She can shoot, wrangle dogies, and herd cattle with the best of cowboys. She can handle herself dealing with the rowdy cowboys in the honky-tonk saloons where she plays classical music on the piano. She even garners the hoity-toity society ladies, and those of the Christian Temperance League of Dodge City into her corner. Yet with all that, she is also a very genteel, well educated lady with a heart as big as the Montana prairie where she grew up. You can read more about her by clicking onto the “Books” page, or the “In The Works” page on this website.