April Fool's Day arrived one day too early

Darrell Huckaby

Some of y'all just don't realize how lucky you are. I am speaking of the fact, now, that this column missed by one day falling on April 1, and I am all about a good April Fool's joke. I have pulled some humdingers in my day, and honesty compels me to admit that I have also had some humdingers pulled on me.

The best April Fool's Day joke I have ever played in print was the one I published about five or six years ago when I convinced half the Bulldog Nation that Herschel Walker was having the year of eligibility restored that he gave up to enter the USFL. Phones started ringing from Rabun Gap to Tybee Light as soon as the paper hit the streets, and I know of about half a dozen people who quit reading after the first paragraph to make hotel reservations for New Year's in New Orleans.

Talkmaster Ludlow Porch, who never has to wait for the first day of April to play pranks on people, got me good on his radio show one year. He had a guest who was purportedly an official from the NCAA spend an entire afternoon explaining to a vast audience of "funseekers" that no two college teams could have the same nickname anymore because it was simply too confusing for television and radio audiences. According to this guy, Yale would get to keep the name Bulldogs because they had it first and Georgia was going back to being the Goats.

I was up in arms and actually called the show and gave the NCAA "representative" a piece of my mind. At some point during my tirade I realized what day it was and felt like a complete fool, which was, of course, the whole idea behind the scam.

I don't know if the following story is true, but I hope it is and have claimed, many times, to have witnessed it. According to legend, one year on April Fool's Day, the parking lot attendants at Walt Disney World in Florida parked every red compact that arrived at the park that day in the same parking area - I think it was the one called "Goofy." If you have ever left the Magic Kingdom at midnight after a full day of fun and frivolity, you can imagine the confusion and consternation of looking for your little red car among 2,000 other little red cars. As I said, it may not be true, but I hope it is.

My students were on edge all day on Friday in fearful anticipation that I would play a trick on them. I learned not to do that a long time ago, however.

I was in my first year of teaching, at Cousins Middle School in Covington, and progress reports happened to go out on the first day of April that year. I decided to play a little joke on Rita Johnson, who was about the smartest girl in the class. I gave her one of those progress reports usually reserved for the demons from Hell. I checked every deficient box there was and indicated that she didn't study, acted out in class, talked back and had committed every other act of malfeasance I could think of. And I think I listed her grade as about a 52.

I really did intend to take it back from her and give her one indicating that she was an angel who made "A" on every assignment. I really did. I just got busy and forgot.

You can imagine my surprise when the next morning that normally pleasant little girl walked into my room wearing a big scowl. She handed me her signed progress report and informed me that her daddy wanted me to call him. She went on to say that she had gotten a whipping the night before and been sent to bed without any supper. You talk about a joke backfiring!

I called her father immediately and apologized profusely, but he just laughed and told me that his daughter got away with a lot and probably had a spanking coming anyway.

He might have taken it well, but Rita didn't. That's been 30 years, and she is probably 43 or 44 years old now and still won't speak to me.

My favorite April Fool's joke of all time was one I pulled on my former pastor. We went to opening day at Atlanta Stadium one year on April 1, and the woman who happened to be sitting next to us thought the preacher - who shall remain nameless - was kind of cute. Every time he would leave his seat - which was frequently - she'd quiz me about him. I finally gave her the number of the church office and suggested she give him a call the next day.

She did, of course, and the church secretary answered, and the preacher was suddenly like Lucy Ricardo. He had "lot of 'splainin'" to do.

Like I said. Y'all are lucky today. But next year, April 1 falls on a Saturday. You'd better beware. I have 365 days to get ready.

Darrell Huckaby is a Newton County native and the author of six books. He lives in Rockdale County where he teaches high school history. E-mail him at DHuck08@bellsouth.net.