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Back in the day there was a whole bunch of us who played pranks on each other.  We'd have cookouts at somebody's house almost every weekend when we could, and we'd all get together and party and eat but there was an underlying theme.   An unspoken code.

It was us and the Yanksters and the "Els," Mitch"ell" and Rach"el."  Rach and Murph (Mrs. Yankster) are sisters, so there was a big connection there.  Anyhow, no matter whose house we were at, there would be some kind of covert mischief.  Something planted for the homeowner to find later.  I think (or try to remember early on - it's been so long), Mitch, at the end of the evening put a big rock (actually a 10-pound slab of busted concrete) on my gas grill grates so I would find it the next time I opened the grill.  I kept it, and the next time the party rolled around to our house, I snuck out and put the rock in the back floorboard of Rachel's car on the passenger side, and covered it up with a convenient towel.  It was months before she found it.  Big score, there.  Victory for the Weeville bunch.

Yank and I worked together in a cramped office space and kept passing the same 1-dollar bill back and forth, hoping the other would never find it.  It was a friendly argument started when we both tried to pay for something that cost a dollar.  That's not my dollar, it's YOURS.  It belongs to YOU.  We both knew the dollar was hidden somewhere in the office all of the time.  Yank won that one.  I found it behind the picture inside a frame on my desk in front of my face about two years later.  Nice job.  Just a lot of stuff like that.

But the Rock was the thing.  That went on for years.  Somebody always had it, and you knew if you hosted an event, you were going to get it back.  How long it took to find it was challenge.  So, we had the rock.  We were going to make a run to the dump, and my ex-wife said, "Let's get rid of this stupid rock, too."  No, it's sacred.  We have to give it back to the Yanksters or the Els.  I know, let's give ALL of this stuff to Yankster.  He's at work this weekend.  Yeah, that's the ticket - we'll decorate his car in the parking lot.  So we did, and we waited for Yankster to get off of work and come out while we waited in surveillance.

We had a broken garden hose reel, a dead vacuum cleaner, an empty can of roof tar, you name it.  A vanload.  I printed out flyers we taped to every window of Yankster's car, itemizing everything:  "ROOFTOP SALE   Hose Reel - CHEAP!    Wonderful Lawn Chair - Call Yank For a Special Deal!, etc."  And the Rock.

Yankster came out of work and laughed the whole time he was loading all the stuff into his vehicle.  And we laughed the whole time he was doing it.  Gosh, SO many years ago.  So many PLACES ago.  So many things ago.  It was all a whole lot of fun.

Today (August 31, 09) I got a very small and light package from Murph, Mrs. Yankster.  Very tightly wrapped.  Lots of strong tape.  That was another thing we would do, at birthdays and such.  We'd put a tiny something inside of ten or as many decreasing-sized packages we could, so you'd have to keep opening and opening to see what the prize was. This package ARRIVED small.  It was a buck 55 to ship it first class, if that lets you know anything.  Small.  Light.  Still, there were multiple compartments inside.

Here's the setting after I got it opened up:

Above, here's Spankie the Dog.  The contents of the Strange Package are shown behind him.  At this point, it's still amazing that so much stuff could come out a box that was about the size of a credit card on any given side. 

Above, a closer look at the contents.  A tiny box inside a tiny box, all packed so tightly as to guard the contents securely.  It sure worked - no damage during shipment.

At the core of the package, there was the encrypted message and 4 little army guys.  They were in great shape after their arduous trek across three states inside a tiny cardboard box.  Military guys, after all, are trained to endure conditions that would break the most of us and send us to tears or to the hospital.

The secret encrypted message, though,... Sue Unit and I between the both of us couldn't decipher it.  What does it mean?  That I should practice opening packages one after another until I get good at it?  Or does it mean I should practice with the official Weeville micro-helicopter until I'm good enough to airlift the military guys from whatever misadventure they should get pinned down in at the hands of the enemy?

Since military guys need to be doing something all the time, I put them to work immediately, while we tried to solve the mystery of the message. 

Above, they aggressively guard the Weeville helicopter while awaiting their next orders from HQ. 

EDITOR'S NOTE:  I talked with Yankster and he reminded me of a phone conversation we had weeks and months ago.  He said he was going to send me some little Army guys to carry around with the helicopter.  I had forgotten all about it.  Completely.  The first time he wrapped it, the box was too small to go via US Mail.  So he had to put it inside another box.  The return address on the outside was a convenient sticker with Murph's name on it.  No prank at all.  Rats.  We're getting old, I guess.

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