Thursday, November 13, 2008

Cheap Thrills, Hoopeston-Style

In 1987, Mr.4444 and I lived in sin, in a little town in Central Illinois: self-proclaimed "Sweet Corn Capital of the World," Hoopeston (pronounced sort of like Scoop-ston if you're not local, and with a Southern drawl if you are). It was the home of Mr.4444's first "real" job.

Now, we were in our mid-twenties, and in my memory, Hoopeston was about five city-blocks square. Picture living in a tiny town, surrounded by nothing but cornfields for miles and miles. Needless to say, we were hard-up for entertainment all the time. (You can only play so many games of cribbage or uchre before you go stir-crazy.)

On warm, summer nights, we sometimes played "The Plastic Purse Game," (which was the brainchild of Mr.4444, of course.) We'd take an old, white, plastic purse, tie fishing line to it, and place the it in the middle of the street (a brick street, as I recall) and run the line up to the house. Porch light off, we'd sit down to wait.

Sooner or later, a car would approach. Holding our breaths, stifling giggles, we'd watch, as many a driver either stopped in front of the purse or drove past it and then backed up again. They'd get out, glance furtively in one direction or another, and then reach to pick up the bait. Of course, that's when we'd give it a little tug. Not to give up easily, many people would actually go for it a second time, as if purses were typically "hard to catch." However, most folks looked up sheepishly, saw the pranksters, and laughed with us.

Some people ignored the purse; too smart to fall for the ruse. Others slowed down and then decided against stopping. There was one lady in her robe, slippers, and curlers; boy, was she a great sport; shaking her head at her gullibility and nodding her congratulations at our success. If the victim was a guy, he'd often act embarrassed and a little mad, but no one ever blew up or anything. That said, the game ended when one poor sport yanked the purse hard and drove off with it. Spoilsport.

There were other things we did for entertainment in good old Hoopeston. I've got a wonderful memory about "Spin the Bottle Truth or Dare" and how I learned that I love having my toes sucked (yeah, I know, TMI, but it was so much FUN!) And I know others found different ways to spend their time (Case-in-point, the window-peekers who once spied on our house guests as they undressed for bed.)

And that's kind of understandable, cuz let's face it; sweet corn is just not all that exciting.

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