I watched as the khaki and brown uniforms walked from the other side of the cafeteria. The officers stopped every few tables as if they were asking where they could find someone. The students pointed in my direction. When they got closer I stopped conversation with my friends and directed their attention toward the police. The County Mounty arrived at our table.
“I’m looking for Andy Oldham, and . . .” He said.
I only heard my name called, as it seemed the only one important to me at the moment. Why was he looking for me?
“Are you Andy Oldham?
“Stand up, turn around and place both hands behind your back.”
“What did I do officer?”
He didn’t answer my question.
“There, they’re not too tight are they?” The Madison County Deputy asked.
“No sir, but what did I do? Shouldn’t I be told what I am being arrested for and read my rights, or something?”
“You’ll find out soon enough, and your rights will be read downtown,” he said.
The week before my arrest was Prank Week 1969. This week of scheming to see who could play the best trick happened on the campus of Anderson University at the beginning of the year. No one could get hurt physically, mentally, or emotionally. Since I have always enjoyed playing jokes on others, and having them played on me, I was looking forward to my freshman year in the dormitory at Dunn Hall.
Eric Borlin, my roommate, played his joke on his girlfriend, Jane, without realizing it. He didn’t mean it as a prank, but we loved it. Like a lot of men, Eric’s hair was dark brown but his mustache was red. To make them match he colored his mustache with brown shoe polish.
Around 10:30 one evening, a lot of guys were sitting around the fireplace when he and Jane came in to the Commons after a date.
“Hi Mo, hi Andy. What are you guys doing?”
Mo Hodge started laughing first Dennis Harrington chimed in. Sometimes I am a little slow, but this time I caught on before many others.
“Hi Eric, what’s that brown stuff around Jane’s mouth?” Mo asked.
When Eric got upset, or overly excited, his saliva filled his mouth and he would hold his hand under his mouth so he wouldn’t get drool all over his shirt. That’s exactly what happened. Eric began sucking slobber back into his mouth while looking at Jane.
“What’s around my mouth Eric?” Jane asked.
Holding one hand under his mouth he ushered her outside. “Come on let’s go.”
I can imagine the conversation they had over a large brown ring around her mouth. Of course, since she didn’t stay in the dorm, they had to go somewhere to clean it off before he took her home.
The girls in 1969 had a dorm curfew, boys did not. Late one night, several buddies of mine, and I, made our way to the girl’s freshman dorm and checked it out. We had been joking all week with some of the girls and told them we would get you before the week is over. After finding a couple of the girls cars we drove downtown to the Anderson Herald dock and acquired several bundles of old papers. We snuck back to the dorm, opened the bundles and wadded up all the papers. We stuffed as many papers in the car as we could and shut the doors. There were several bundles left over so we put them on top of the car.
When the girls didn’t comment on what had happened we were surprised. Prank Week ended and several weeks went by with no discussion. We were puzzled but knew we couldn’t ask or they would know we had played this dastardly trick.
“My Dad is the Director of Security on Anderson’s campus,” I said. “Let me call him.”
“You will get your one phone call when we get to the jail, son. “
He took me, and my three buddies, and led us by the arm toward the front door of the student cafeteria. Hundreds of our peers stopped eating and stared in amazement. A group of my closest friends followed us out of the building. When we got the front door the Indiana policeman turned around and told them to stay there and not to follow.
“Duck your head, son,” he said, as he placed each of us in the backseat of the patrol car.
“I still don’t know what I did,” I said.
No response from the officer seemed appropriate for him, once again.
Two per car, I looked at my friend and he gazed at me.
I whispered, “Do you know why we are being arrested?”
He shrugged his shoulders indicating he was just as puzzled.
The car moved forward and east down University Boulevard, from the cafeteria. We turned right on Nursery Road, and right again on E. 5th Street. Yes, we were headed in the direction of the Anderson City Jail. Anxiety swept over my soul as we approached College Drive. Wait! We were supposed to turn left here, not right. Did this cop know where the jail was? Turning right again, and back onto University Boulevard, we were headed right for the cafeteria. Needless to say we were, now, totally perplexed.
The sergeant let us out in the same place we had been put in the cars. About that time these four girls, and about one hundred acquaintances, came running out pointing fingers and laughing. Unlocking our handcuffs, the cop said, “There has been a mistake. You are not the criminals we were looking for.” And, “Oh, by the way, you have been pranked.” He walked over to the girls and got a huge hug from each. He turned and smiled at us, got back in the driver’s seat and drove away.
I guess you know by now who played the best prank and it surely was not us guys. After several weeks the girls let us in on their secret. Even as conniving and careful as we were that night they were watching our every move from the third floor window of their dorm. They saw every piece of paper we stuffed in the car. While watching they planned their revenge. The next morning one of them drove the car to the recycle company and collected a little pocket change.
Weeks before my arrest, these college age juveniles were pulled over by this Madison County cop for running a stop sign. As girls will be, they laughed and giggled and used their child-like charm to make friends with him. When they needed a prank, he came through for them. Boy, did he ever.
I have to smile. After all these years, this was the best joke ever played on me. I will never forget. I have to stop and thank God for the humor in my life.