Sunday, March 20, 2011

Act of Friendship - Badge of Honor

“CLEAN IT UP!” dad yelled, about as annoyed as I’d ever seen him – not really angry… just annoyed. “I knew if you kept messin’ with people you were gonna get messed with”, he declared.

It was the summer of 1973, and just like every other fun-loving teenager in America that lived in the city, I spent my evenings – every evening - driving up and down the drag, honking at the same cars I honked at on the last round just a few minutes ago, which were in fact the same cars I honked at last night and the night before, and every night that summer; all the while watching the bank clock to see if I had time for one more drag before curfew saw me pulling up in front of the house.

OK, so dad was right – I had been victimized; something I never thought would happen...

But this night was different. On this night, after having made one last round on the drag I headed for the house. And then I turned on our street. And that’s when I saw it. Even from a block away I could see it. Somebody had strewn toilet paper all over our yard – all over our trees, all over our bushes, all over mom’s car – everywhere! We had been TP’d!

I walked in the house and found dad still up, watching TV. “You didn’t hear anything?” I asked. “Hear what? What are you talking about?” And that’s when I showed him the front yard, and that’s when I got his lecture… and his refusal to help me clean it up.

For the unlearned, the phenomenon known as TPing a house, or as my cousins in Dallas called it, rolling a house, is when a gang of kids (usually) unroll several rolls of toilet paper on a friend’s front yard. They throw the roll up into the tree and watch it fall on the other side, leaving a streamer of Charmin hanging from the highest branch. They lace it through the bushes. They roll it under a car and then throw it over, hoping it won’t come apart at a perf in the process, so that the car can be neatly “wrapped up”.

But Dad didn’t understand the fun of it. Maybe that’s because they probably didn’t have toilet paper in “his day”. They probably just dumped bushel baskets of corn cobs on each other’s yards and then jumped into the buggy, hoping the victim wouldn’t hear the horse’s hoofs as they made their get-away.

OK, so dad was right – I had been victimized; something I never thought would happen. While I must have gone through a hundred dollars worth of toilet paper myself that summer, I took pride in having never been TP’d myself. Oh, they tried, but I always caught them. I once chased a girl halfway down the street to make her come back and clean up the mess she’d tried to make on my yard.

But somebody had finally succeeded in nailing me! And I was flabbergasted by it. See, you only TP people you like. It’s an act of friendship – a badge of honor to be TP’d. But I knew who my friends were, and I made it my job to know where every one of them was every night… so that I could “get” them but they couldn’t “get” me.

And I was the KING of TP. I was so adept at the game that I could look at a “job” and tell you with some degree of accuracy how many rolls were used, and probably who the artist was that created the masterpiece. I even TP’d a girl’s car parked on Broadway in the middle of the afternoon without getting caught.

But whose work was this? I didn’t recognize it. In fact, it was done so poorly that I couldn’t image it being something any of my friends had done. We were pros after all. I remember telling dad that the person who did the tree had no clue how to TP, but whoever did the bushes did an OK job.

So the investigation began. I started asking all my friends what they were doing on Friday night. You have to be subtle when conducting an inquiry. You have to ask leading questions, and look for telling expressions. But it just wasn’t happening. No matter who I grilled, I got nowhere. I recruited my closest friends to assist in the case. I wracked my brain for anyone I may have overlooked. But all my friends were accounted for on that Friday evening – except two. But who were those two?

Two weeks passed, and each day I was more perplexed than the day before. Then, one afternoon I walked into the shop where I worked with dad, and he said something that cracked the case wide open. “I know who TP’d you!” he declared, with that crooked grin on his face that those who knew him still remember to this day, more than 10 years after his passing.

“WHO?” I asked, only half way believing him. “It was your best friend,” was all he would tell me. He strung me along for about 2 days before confessing that it was in fact HE, HIMSELF that had TP’d our yard, with the help of my older brother. He barely contained his laughter as he regaled how he had done the tree (pathetic) while my brother did the bushes (adequate).

Dad was right. It was my best friend that had TP’d me that Friday night in the summer of ’73. Oh, I didn’t realize it at the time, but my best friend gave me what would be most of my fondest memories of childhood. And it was my best friend that kept me out of trouble and got me out of trouble, and taught me what being a man really means. And it was my best friend that introduced me to my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ at a very early age. And I look forward to seeing them both face to face at the Lord’s returning.

Even so, come quickly!