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Pulling the tiger's tail

A tiger's tail

This was going to be the first Halloween ever that me and my friend Steve would be free to do whatever we wanted. I think we were around 16, and both holding down full-time jobs after school hours, me at a restaurant, he working for his electrician father. But somehow we'd both managed to be off for Halloween night.

Steve had wrecked his car sometime before, and so now depended on me and my Mustang to get around.

Back in those days, widespread fears of child abduction and sabotaged candy had not yet been instilled into the population at large, and so Halloween was still a very congested event. Everybody was on the streets, by early evening.

Of course, the little kiddies still mostly did their thing early, and were generally off the streets after dark, or else only still milling about in quiet, out-of-the-way suburban nooks. Thereby leaving the rest of the night to teenagers like us.

My parents' house sat smack beside one of the major thoroughfares in my home town, where almost everyone would pass by sooner or later, if they cruised around town long enough.

Me and Steve had some specific targets in mind for our supply of eggs and-- yes, pumpkins.

My own preferred target would be the car of a cheerleader I was crushing on at the time. Yes, this was beyond childish, but I really had no clue what otherwise to do about her. And probably never any realistic shot at striking up a relationship with her, either. So I defaulted to 'little boy' type, to try to at least get her attention, in one of the few ways which seemed open to me.

Steve had a female target too, but she and her family were practically Amish, and she likely didn't venture out at all that night.

Steve and I crouched behind some vehicles parked out front of my parents' house, in wait for some desirable targets. Basically we would likely pelt most anyone we recognized, but certain targets like the girls' vehicles would get special attention.

However, we weren't the only ones egging that night. In fact, the cars we were hiding behind were getting smacked fairly regularly from passing traffic: other teens, attacking from mobile platforms.

Steve and I planned to do that too, after a while. But first, we were going to surprise some people here.

And boy, did we succeed. We clobbered the hell out of numerous passing cars. And almost immediately after that, I spotted my cheerleader. She had wisely chosen not to drive her nice SS Chevelle that night, but rather her dad's considerably rattier old Chevrolet truck.

Steve and I let loose a mighty volley, and could hear her and her friends inside the cab scream (I think two other cheerleaders were with her at the time; they tended to travel in groups).

It wasn't just eggs either. We lobbed a couple of fairly soft and rotten pumpkins into the truck's bed too, where they splattered all over everything there. Yuck!

I'm pretty sure the cheerleaders didn't dare to pass that spot again the rest of the night.

That goal met, we packed up our ammunition and left to meet some buddies on the other end of town.

However, along the way, we were surprised to see the cheerleaders had pulled into a popular car wash to clean up the truck.

So of course we doubled back, parked, then crept up on them to spring a second attack, with more eggs. And more rotten pumpkins too, of course.

For some reason we got lots more pleasure out of doing that than we should have. It brought a smile to my face just now, writing about it.

So having doused the cheerleader's truck a second time, we returned to my car and resumed our trek to the planned rendezvous.

When we got to the meeting place, others were running late. So several of us decided to pile into an old Ford Falcon to go out and assault traffic while we waited. We basically made a great circle around town, attacking targets as we saw fit on the highway. Sometimes at fairly high speeds, with one or more of us sitting on car door window sills throwing eggs.

Yes: this was very dangerous. But that's what we did. We were 1970s teenagers in rural America.

However, many targets could either outrun the Falcon, or else out-throw the few of us in the car, with our limited elbow room and small, cramped car window portals. For example, once we stopped at a red light behind a van. Suddenly the van's back doors sprang open, and several other teenagers suddenly were standing in the street covering us in eggs. We couldn't return fire because our situation was more awkward. So all we could do was roll up all the windows and get doused.

Our vehicle was soon covered in yellow goo.

The red light changed, and all our opponents jumped back into their van and took off, leaving us trying to clean the windshield with the wipers.

But around that point it was time to return to the rendezvous spot anyway. So we did.

And this time it was there: our secret weapon. A great big flatbed truck with wooden fencing on the sides. Steve and me and maybe eight others climbed into the back with our ammunition, and our Halloween dreadnought was launched.

From that moment on, nobody else could touch us. We were the lords of Halloween. Sure, some targets could outrun us. But none could stand toe to toe with us, or outdo our volleys. It was glorious.

Remember that van which bested us at the redlight? We made sure to pay them back with glee.

Of course, this stint in "Big Bertha" (as we named the truck) could only last until we ran empty on ammunition.

So soon we were done with Big Bertha, and dispersing to our personal vehicles again.

But there was yet one more act left to this play.

We backtracked almost all the way back to my parents' home, to meet some other buddies at a house about two blocks from where I lived. It was off the main drag, nestled in some very quiet suburbs, with a four way intersection at one corner of the property.

With this new crowd, we opened an upstairs window in this two or three story house (it was an unusual dwelling structure-wise), and clambered out onto the large roof.

The roof seemed almost perfectly made for this outing, as the side we occupied wasn't steep enough to feel scary. And the top edge of the roof was parallel to the minor axis of the intersection on the corner. So it was like the optimum roof top foxhole, so long as we stayed on the proper side.

Occasionally a car would stop at the intersection and we would pelt them, seemingly out of nowhere. Some drivers would stop, get out, and curse us, but they had no idea where we were. Our eggs seemed to rain down on them from the sky itself.

It was great fun for us. We had to struggle not to laugh too loudly, or respond to them with jeers which might give away our position.

It seemed no one suspected we might be upon the roof.

Most of the time we lay flat on the roof incline, only adding height to throw or observe.

The climax of the night came when a police car stopped at the intersection.

Boy, did we let him have it. This-- a cop-- was by far the juiciest target of the night for we rebellious teens.

Man, did we piss him off! He jumped out of his car cursing and yelling for us to come out from hiding, and even pulled his pistol and waved it around.

We lay there whispering and snickering on the roof while he ranted, by now pretty confident he couldn't tell where we were. When he finally ended his tirade and climbed back into the cruiser after several minutes of no more eggs, he probably thought he'd scared us off.

We made sure to disabuse him of that notion with another-- maybe even bigger-- volley than the original.

He'd just begun to move forward from the stop sign when the new wave hit him. He abruptly stopped short again, and pondered getting out of the car a second time. You could practically read his thoughts from his car's movements. But then he apparently realized he couldn't do anything of a practical nature to us, and continued on his way.

Note that when most people drove off, they would pass beyond the roof ridge behind which we hid, and conceivably see us in their rear view mirror, or by simply looking back and out of their side window.

Maybe it was too dark for that-- but this was one point we weren't entirely sure about. Atop the roof, amongst ourselves, we seemed easily visible.

So we always laid low when cars passed through that stage. And especially so with the cop. Making this definitely the most exciting part of the night for us.

I'd had no idea of the real damage eggs could do to both human targets and auto enamel paint jobs, until the days after this episode, when I discovered some hits on my own car.

Perhaps factory paint could withstand eggs better than a cheap paint job from a local shop. But I had the local variety. And my paint looked shattered wherever an egg had struck.

At this early date, I had no idea that I personally would someday be a much bigger thorn in the side of certain law enforcement officers, both local and not...

a - j m o o n e y h a m . c o m - o r i g i n a l

Copyright © 2009 by J.R. Mooneyham. All rights reserved.