April Fools!!! Yep, this article won’t be about sex or popcorn but about the pranks that one might play back in the old west.
Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales published in 1392 provides the first reverence to April 1 being celebrated as April Fools’ Day. However, there were other such days for performing pranks and silly acts prior to this such as the Roman Festival of Hilaria or the Medieval Feast of Fools. Regardless, the tradition of April Fool’s Day carried over into the new world and has left its humorous mark since.
Cow Tipping: Well, according to studies, this is actually an urban legend and tends to stereotype folks who live in rural areas. Cows are rather large and don’t sleep standing up so to tip one over, it would require the force of at least two people and that’s assuming both could sneak up on the cow. That said, though, I could see our illustrious young cowboys talking a city dweller into trying this activity as a way of pranking the unsuspecting city dweller.
Or maybe cow tipping isn't a myth after all? Watch this video and see what you think. (Language alert. There are a few bad words in this video so don't watch if you don't like cussing.)
Outhouse Tipping: This rather odorous custom began as revenge for not getting Halloween candy. The trick was to turn over the outhouse so it landed on the door. That way, the unsuspecting victim inside would have a devil of a time getting out and the prank would last longer. One of my favorite scenes in Space Cowboys was when Tommy Lee Jones discussed tipping an outhouse and it rolling down a hill. Of course, just placing a harmless snake on the top rafter of an outhouse would give the indulger quite a fright. That actually happened to us when we were at Girl Scout Camp.
Snipe Hunting: Snipe are real birds and difficult to catch, but the idea behind “snipe” hunting is so much more. The victim would be taken on a snipe hunt and told outlandish ways for hunting the animal/bird. They might be told to bang pots and pans to roust it from its lair, carry open sacks and rustle the brush until one hopped into the sack or maybe even wear their clothing backwards to attract the would-be target. I actually went snipe hunting with my father and brother but we hunted the real bird. It was difficult and I remember wearing overlarge waders and traipsing through a marshy area. I couldn’t shoot at the birds but my dad and brother actually bagged a few. The term sniper derives from those skilled enough to shoot a snipe.
Greased pig chase: I couldn’t find a history for when this event got started at fairs but Florida was the first state where pigs first arrived in 1539. The event is run at many county fairs throughout the states where a pig is coated in some sort of grease like Crisco and let loose for kids to chase. A rather amusing sport to watch with the pigs squealing and kids and/or adults tumbling over each other for the prize. Letting a pig loose in a part of the ranch/farm where you wouldn’t want it would cause quite a stir, greased or not.
Burr under the saddle?: Some pranks could be dangerous like placing a burr under the saddle blanket to irritate the horse once a rider placed his/her weight in the saddle. Another prank might include cinching the saddle in the wrong place thus causing an adverse reaction from the horse when mounting. Even not cinching the saddle tight would have the unsuspecting cowboy falling onto the ground when the saddle slid to the side.
Edison’s Food Machine(1878) After he invented the light, American’s thought he could do no wrong so when a newspaper came out with an article that he’d invented a machine that could make cereal from dirt, other newspapers latched onto the article and perpetuated the lie and Americans bought it, hook, line and sinker.
Dribble Glass: In the 1930’s, Adams came out with a glass that sported an etched grape design. Some of the etching went deep enough to leave small pinholes in the glass and would then leak when someone tried to drink from it. In fact, Adams was the maker of many practical joke type items which date as far back as 1906.
At the Swimming Hole: A classic prank was for someone to steal your clothes when you were skinny dipping in the swimming hole.
I'm sure the pranks cowboys played on others were many and usually stemmed from knowledge of the victim's habits. Things like replacing one's toilet water with a concoction less pleasant to the nose or putting dye in one's bath water could prove quite humorous to those in on the joke. And let's not forget spreading a thick layer of lard on the outhouse seat.
Excerpt from Julia's Golden Eagle:
A commotion at the entrance of the barn stopped whatever comment Ryan would have made. A mud slicked hog ran into the barn, chased by a group of rowdy boys. The large animal charged into the crowd at a frantic speed. The dance floor cleared, making room for the boys and the pig. The squeals of the poor beast drowned out the fiddle as the animal tried to escape the clutches of its pursuers. The women gave the hog and boys a wide berth while the men commenced to betting on the outcome of the hog’s capture. Julia ran to the refreshment table as the hog headed that direction. She grabbed hold of the punch bowl just as the pig careened into the table leg. Ruby, red liquid sloshed all over the tablecloth. She glanced down at her overalls with irritation as red punch stained her outfit.
“JD, do something,” Rachel called. “That animal is going to ruin my wedding.”
JD laughed, clearly enjoying the entertainment for what it was. “Your plan to head off pranks this evening backfired, didn’t it?” But he took off after the pig and joined the boys in their mad scurry.
Julia decided to take up the challenge as well. She, Rachel, and Mary Sue had worked hard to put this thing together, and she couldn’t stand the look of horror and disbelief that marred Rachel’s lovely features. Grabbing a rope that hung on a nail, she tied a loop. As the hog made another pass toward her, she swung the rope around and neatly lassoed the hog around its neck. She held on tight as the weight of the hog pulled her forward. Temper controlled the hog’s actions, and Julia landed on her rump, with the hog dragging her behind. Strong arms came from behind and lent their assistance. Together, they were able to halt the actions of the swine. Five wide-eyed boys made a run for the front door when they saw their game had ended. JD and Bryce steered the animal out of the barn, leaving Julia winded on the hay strewn floor with a pair of powerful arms wrapped securely around her.
“What in the world got into you, woman?” Julia looked up to see Ryan peering down at her.
“Well, someone had to stop that animal from ruining Rachel’s day.”
“Well that someone didn’t have to be you. I won’t have my future wife acting like some . . . some . . .”
“Cowboy? Hell, Ryan, I thought that’s why you wanted to marry me in the first place. So I could take over for you at the Rocking J.” She felt the arms around her tighten, almost cutting off her breath. She shoved an elbow in the unfortunate man’s stomach, but the arms didn’t loosen.