Farm Road 917 runs west out of Joshua toward Godley. When I was growing up, it was a quiet road with little traffic. If you wanted to get to my house, which you didn’t, you turned left onto Gunn Court just before you topped the hill on 917 a mile out of Joshua. The landmark was the vacant fresh produce stand where old man Sheppard hid during his shootout with the police a few years before.
Gunn Court was a horrible road. Had it been a regular dirt road, it would have been much better. Huge rocks, followed by huge holes, almost required 4-wheel drive, or at least a very low speed, and kept unwanted traffic away. The encroaching masses of trees and wild grape vines on each side of the road threatened to swallow the already too narrow lane.
Also, both 917 and Gunn Court were very dark at night.
Tired of prank calling 94.5 The Edge, Fort Worth’s Alternative rock station, and high on azucar*, Ryan and I pulled a long-sleeved flannel shirt, old jeans, old shoes, and a rubber mask of a melted face with a heap of gray hair out of my closet and attached it to create a deflated man who we inflated with wadded newspaper. We quietly left the house around 9:00 P.M. with our new partner and a bottle of ketchup for the intersection of Gunn Court and 917.
The dummy was skillful work, but the crime scene itself was better. We spent half an hour arranging our accomplice to make him look like a splattered body tossed in the ditch. Once satisfied, we retreated into the bushes and waited.
A glow built from headlights cresting the hill, sending a thrill through each of us, only to continue and leave us in the dark for another five minutes. Finally, a car slowed, almost stopped, and then squealed tires to get to town. Soon, we saw red and blue lights coming from the east.
Several patrol cars and a few civilians parked along the ditch. Officers approached our friend with spotlights and caution; we could only make out a few muffled words, and then a chuckle. “That’s pretty good,” one of them said before tearing our gray-haired friend’s head off and tossing his parts over the fence.
Then they shined their lights in our direction. We pressed ourselves as deeply into the leaves and vines as we could. That, along with the bushes and trees around us, kept us safe. After a few minutes of searching, the caravan returned to town.
In the meantime, my girlfriend’s youth group was preparing to leave for church camp, or a mission, or some other earth shattering, soul redeeming event. One boy passed our intersection on his way to the church, where he announced that there was a “dead kid in the ditch at the end of John’s road.” Since my mother told my girlfriend that she didn’t know where I was when she phoned earlier, which was true, it was reasonable to assume I was the dead boy. The group prayed for me, my family, and my soul; prayers for my family and soul were common in those days as well as these.
There’s no moral to this story, or any appropriate ending really, other than to say that the night ended, and a year passed, and then thirty. Two boys became men and had boys, but they still love to talk about the time the radio station put Ryan on air impersonating President Bush the First, or the time they played the foil trick, or made a dummy, or put a crawdad in a condom and placed it on Ms. Jones’ seat in science class.
*Azucar is Spanish for sugar. Prior to ninth grade, we got “sugared.” After ninth grade and Spanish I, we got “zooked.”