Me and some guys working highway construction were having our lunch in a field one time. Bob hawked a loogie into his thermos, like he always did, so no one would drink out of it when he wasn’t looking. What he didn’t realize was that, while he unwrapped his sandwich, I put a blackbird in his car. When he drove off at the end of the day he had to fight this crazed bird that kept flapping against the inside of his windshield and pecking at his eyes. This was back in the day when people weren’t sensitive about every single one of their rights and didn’t haul you into court over any little infraction of the law. I call it the golden age of practical jokes. Bob would call it that too except this past year he lost his power of speech in a terrible medical tragedy.
The morning after the bird joke Bob told us guys that somehow this insane blackbird had got into his Fairlane, causing him to drive into a ravine. Now he had a motorcycle. I never confessed I was the one who put the bird in his car, but maybe he figured it out from my laughing so hard. Anyway a few days later I looked down to light a cigarette and just then someone slipped a young coyote down my shirt. This was back in the day when a lot of us guys smoked. I owned a blue butane lighter that I was fond of and hated the day I lost it. I had a strong suspicion Bob handled the coyote, to get even, but if so he never let on, and I didn’t really see him do it. My wife, after she heard about a coyote, wouldn’t even put that shirt in the laundry. She just threw it out.
Another time on a bridge project I was leaning off the top of the bridge and dangling a plumb bob, when someone in a small boat on the river reached out and cut off the bob. I never did see who did it, but I could put two and two together. It was Bob. It made me laugh harder than the time Bob and I were relaxing in a storm drain and he pushed me into a rushing torrent. My shoes didn’t get all the way dry until the next day. I got even by putting a hornet’s nest in Bob’s motorcycle helmet. This was back in the day you didn’t have to wear a helmet, but I was glad Bob wore one. I watched him put on his helmet at the end of the day and roar off, only to swerve to the side of the road, pull off his helmet, and start slapping himself all over the face and neck. The next day his face was red and swollen, but he hadn’t gone to the doctor even though he was allergic to insect venom and fell into a coma that lasted through the night. Back in those days you didn’t go to the doctor for every little ache and pain. Bob once set his own broken leg using a shovel for a splint, and passed a kidney stone while operating a jackhammer. I once sweated out Lyme disease while operating a Bobcat. It was a manlier age.
Bob must have figured out that I had something to do with the hornets in his helmet, because a few days later I drove off after work and discovered two raccoons in my car, one injured and bleeding and the other rabid. There was quite a tussle in the front seat of my Monte Carlo, but I finally got shut of those animals without too much damage to me or the car. My jacket was shredded and I had some deep scratches on my arms, but nothing serious enough to complain about, let alone see a doctor over. And I didn’t want to lose face in front of the guys, especially Bob, by acting delicate. We were tough back then. Anyway I scored again when I spread half a pound of deer feces on the door handle of our portable toilet right before Bob had to go real bad. Watching him react was great. He got me back by heating up the doorknob of our work trailer with a blowtorch when I wasn’t looking, then asking me to get the door for him. That really blistered me, but it was great too.
One time I tricked Bob into feeding a doughnut to a wild horse. The horse bit him on the chest and wouldn’t let go until Bob punched it in the nose half a dozen times. The skin wasn’t broken, but Bob got a bruise as wide as his ribcage. But he didn’t go to the doctor, since he wasn’t delicate. We joked that it would have been worse if he’d been a woman, and he just laughed at that comment. Women are more delicate and exposed to danger in the chest area than men, you have to admit.
I confess Bob did a good number on me soon after the horse joke. I was eating my lunch in a meadow, enjoying my sandwich and the view while sitting against the biggest cow carcass I’d ever seen. Well, Bob came rushing up and kicked that carcass a good one with his work boot, and didn’t a dozen angry possums come running out of that hollow belly, just fussing and hissing at me for ruining their peaceful meal. The expression on my face must have been something when I saw those angry devils surrounding me, because Bob spit the bite of egg salad sandwich in his mouth about fifty feet. After seeing how far that egg salad traveled, we both let out a hoot.
After work me and Bob used to sit out on the grass by an elementary school and shoot pennies out of each other’s fingers with our .22 rifles. This was back in the day when gun laws weren’t as strict as they are now. We got good enough that we could hit the penny, held steady between thumb and forefinger, at fifty yards. One time Bob decided to have some fun. He shot off the tip of my right forefinger, missing the penny completely. Of course I didn’t go to the doctor. Back in those days a missing finger or toe wasn’t even considered disfigurement. It certainly was nothing to get upset about. Bob said I required less nourishment now, being not so substantial, and from then on helped himself to my lunch Twinkie. That was pretty funny, and made a certain sense. To even the score I shot him in the buttocks with my rifle. He carried the slug on his right hip to remind us of the laughs we had until the day a stroke silenced him. If you think he went to the doctor over a thing like that, you’re wrong. I mean the bullet, not the stroke. He’s in a nursing home because of the stroke, and I don’t see him coming out.