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My Grandpa Ray was quite the joker
Em and Thatcher

GAYS MILLS - My grandpa is a joker. Just as all grandpas should be.

With it being ginseng season, I recalled one of the many practical jokes that he played on me during my childhood.

One of the first times he took me out ginseng hunting many years ago, we hiked and hiked along the steep hillside.

He led me to a plant that closely resembled ginseng and set me to digging. I dug and dug, carefully attempting to extract the prized root.

However, the root snapped under the weight of my small hands, and I was devastated. My grandpa was laughing away at me, pointing out that it was not in fact ginseng, but some other woodland plant he called ‘fools sang’ – which was actually wild sarsaparilla.

I am generally, a skeptical person. I always say Chasca is much nicer than I am because he is far more likely to believe things at face value. I on the other hand tend to mull them over extensively before believing something (or someone) to be absolute truth.  This isn’t really true though, when it comes from my grandpa. He could probably tell me that they are growing oranges in Gays Mills now instead of apples, and I’d speed my car up to the top of the hill to buy the first bag.

Once as a young child, my parents issued me a small amount of money and sent me off with my grandpa to do some shopping. Usually, when we went on a shopping excursion it would entail stopping by R & M Liquidators, Crazy Franks, or a rummage sale if we could find one.

This day was far more special, as my grandpa announced we would be going to the Bell Center Mall!

The Bell Center Mall he told me was far larger than any mall I had ever been to before; much nicer than the Valley View Mall in LaCrosse.

I sat thinking to myself of why my mom, aunts and Grandma would trouble themselves going all the way to LaCrosse in the snow and slush for Christmas shopping when this wonderful strip of shops was right down the road.

I sat in the back of my grandpa’s yellow Cadillac (complete with a bumper sticker that read ‘Real women drink beer’) as we rambled down the highway. I counted my few dollars over and over, pondering my potential purchases. 

“Are we almost there?!” I squealed, looking out the window at what seemed like, the middle of nowhere.

“We’re coming up to it now,” my grandpa responded clicking on his left blinker.

“I don’t see the mall, where is it?!” I called out from the back seat-when slowly I realized I had been duped.

As you can assume, a character like my grandpa loves April Fools Day.

One year, he saddled up to the telephone, no doubt big cup of coffee in hand, and began dialing his family members.

He called to tell them that his big old tobacco shed was blown away overnight.

Keeping a steady calm tone, everyone of course believed him. Before he hung up he would announce that he was in fact “April Fooling.” So everyone could share a laugh with the sly old dog.

That night while grandpa Ray lay tucked in his bed, satisfied with his day full of fooling, a terrible windstorm blew across the Kickapoo Valley. He woke up the next morning to find his big blue tobacco shed completely flattened. Of course, no one believed him the second morning he called to report the calamity. 

My brother will probably most vividly remember the prank that coincided with the first time my parents left us home alone.

I don’t even really remember the details of the rest of the night because, being the older sister, I was probably stuck up in my room reading a book or any other number of things that didn’t involve spending time with my little brother.

The phone rang and Patty picked up the receiver with his usual flat “hello.”

“Hello Patrrrriicccckkk,” an unrecognizable and creepy dark voice came from the other end. “The Shadow Patrick, he knows what you’ve been up to, ha ha ha. The Shadow can see you Patrick, The Shadow knows…..”

This routine conjured from the old time radio drama ‘The Shadow’ was apparently a good old standby for my grandpa, who later revealed he had on a few occasions made the same call to his own daughters, throughout their lifetimes.