I’m not much of a ‘group’ person. As a hearing impaired loner, large groups make me twitchy. But I wasn’t always like this. As a teen I did my best to fit in. Our town was small and a bit isolated (meaning you didn’t get by with much). Often my parents knew my transgressions before I walked in (past curfew) because someone (an adult) had already witnessed and snitched on me. Sigh.
Several years ago a special group was formed on Facebook. Everyone who joined had grown up in Rock Valley, Iowa (with the exception of Alma but we love her anyway). Some recently, but most of us experienced our childhood and teenage years during the 50’s, 60’s & 70’s. For the first few months as our numbers swelled from 30 to 100, (now it’s over 1,000, but posts are few and far between) people started random conversations about school, best friends, parents, tragedies, oddities, teachers, churches, keggers, sand pits, swimming hole, dump, stores on Main Street, parties, restaurants, bowling alley, good parking spots, bank, movie theater, piles of snow in the middle of the street, sledding, winters that lasted forever, shopping in Sioux Falls, a cow who was set for slaughter but narrowly escaped death, and some noteworthy pranks.
We weren’t bad kids but easily bored, (there wasn’t much to do) and that’s when trouble started. I’ve owned up to my misdemeanors when I began blogging in 2014 (how is that even possible? I’ve written nonsense for nearly 8 years!). Certainly the statute of limitations had run out, right?
As small as our town was back then, there were pranks pulled that somehow remained mysterious or unknown to the masses. This one was a doozy. It was vaguely mentioned on ‘If you grew up in Rock Valley’ site awhile back but happened over 50 years ago. No one was hurt and no drinking had taken place. I wasn’t involved. I swear.
One night during the summer of ‘67 or ‘68, ‘The 3 Stooges,’ (3 bored teenage boys looking for some excitement in Rock Valley) were down at “The Cue.” This was a teen hangout underneath our grocery store where kids played pool, Foosball and drank pop. (Not soda) One of the policemen’s kids came down and during a casual conversation with The 3 Stooges might have mentioned every local cop was in Sioux Falls (45 miles away) for a conference that night. The main drag of our quaint town had one solitary stoplight (which always tugged at my heartstrings so I named my blog after it). The officer ‘on duty’ often parked by said traffic light, facing east with a good view of north/south traffic. The boys walked upstairs and sure enough, one of the cop’s car was just sitting there, 1/4 block away. How much fun would it be to stuff a potato in his tailpipe?
But wait! The car doors were open! The steering wheel wasn’t locked. (Why I oughta). One of the three-some suggested, “Let’s hide the cop’s car,” so they pushed it in an alley, then snickered their way back to The Cue. “But the alley’s the first place they’re gonna look. Where can we stash this car for a awhile?” Suddenly, Moe remembers an abandoned grainery 6 miles southeast of town. “Let’s push it out there! It will take them days to find it.” Moe gets behind the wheel, Curly calls ‘shotgun’ and Larry uses his car to push the other 2 yahoos out of town in the cop’s car.
Being subtle had not yet been introduced into the 3 Stooge’s language skills or behavior patterns. They tried but could not resist. So there they were, 2 in the cop’s car, lights flashing, (no sirens, thank heavens) being pushed east down 14th Street. Right past the mayor’s house who happened to be looking out the window. (You knuckleheads) The mayor eventually pursued. But the 3 mischief maker’s took no notice and proceeded out of town.
They got a couple miles out of town when they spied headlights in their rear view. Larry suffered a moment of lucidity (or panic), concluding it was not the right time to get caught, swung his car out from pushing and sped off. Consequently the cop’s car immediately slowed to a crawl with the mayor in hot pursuit, pulling alongside with his passenger screaming, “pull over, pull over!” Moe suddenly shoves the car into park. He and Curly fall, trip, slide down a deep ditch into a corn field. Two more sets of headlights soon stop, get out (with tracking dogs. Just kidding) and the heat is on. Had it been August with Iowa’s corn stalks higher than Curly & Moe, escaping would have been easier, but it was July and the corn was only knee-high so they crawled through the fields. The 2 made their way back to town, found Larry, had a good laugh and went their separate ways. (Nyut, Nyut, Nyut).
A couple days later Moe, Curly and Larry thought the incident was all but forgotten, but they’d been ratted out. The passenger in the mayor’s car most likely. The local Justice of the Peace hauled them into court, which was held at night (everyone worked during the day) to a packed house with overflow folks on the sidewalk. The Stooge’s had no lawyer and were questioned by the judge. “Why didn’t you stop?” “We didn’t know it was the mayor.” “Then why did you finally stop?” “Cause Larry stopped pushing us,” which produced a big laugh for everyone but the judge. (Oh, a wise guy!) The judge then accused them of being guilty and not admitting it. Court was adjourned for the night.
The boys figured this could be more serious than they initially thought. Finally, using the brains God gave them, stopped to seek advice from an attorney. When the barrister heard what happened ‘in court,’ he kept shaking his head and saying, “judge, judge, judge.” He then got a change of venue for the boys to another town.
While realizing this was a fairly serious offense, the judge wasn’t out to ruin 3 young men’s lives over pushing a cop’s car around for a few minutes. Grand theft auto would have resulted in felony charges and possibly jail time. (“Nyaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhh-ah-ah”) Instead the judge offered, ‘tampering with an emergency vehicle,’ a Misdemeanor which all 3 gladly accepted. And a $100. fine for EACH of the goofballs (which was significant, gotta hit them where it hurts). It was a teaching moment and lessons were learned on both sides.
1. Never have a time when no policeman is on duty. 2. Never leave a police car unattended or unlocked. (Poifect)
Oh, I almost forgot. Whatever became of that hefty $300. dollar fine? Well the town of Rock Valley bought new Christmas decorations up and down Main Street, compliments of the 3 Stooges that year. They were gorgeous and flashy. A little reminder every Advent season when Curly’s family drove through town his mom would exclaim, “we paid for these decorations!” Low enough so mom couldn’t distinguish what he was mumbling, Curly muttered, (“It soitenly was fun though.”)…