If At All Possible, Involve A Cow
I borrowed the title of this post from a fine book by Neil Steinberg called 'If At All Possible, Involve A Cow - The Book Of College Pranks'.
I purchased that book soon after its release in 1992, at the time being an undergraduate in college. It seemed to be a more relevant purchase than most of my required textbooks. The book (allegedly) served as inspiration for a number of pranks, major and minor, that occurred on my college campus between 1992 and my graduation 3 years later.
Most of the hijinks never rose to the level of faking an entire edition of a college newspaper, or convincing half of a football stadium to hold up cards saying "We Suck". Still, pranks were pulled, and fun was had. No doubt it's a perfect coincidence, but one of the most despised university presidents at that noble institution also arrived in 1992, and departed in disgrace from the office about the time I graduated, whereupon the pranks mysteriously ceased. Like I said, a perfect coincidence...
I will not tell that particular tale here, however. For one thing, it did not involve a cow, but an entirely different barnyard animal. For another, I'm still fuzzy on whole statute of limitations thing, so to hear the whole story, you must find me at a blogmeet and ply me with bourbon.
The prank I blog about today did indeed involve a cow. A dried-out weather-beaten husk of a cow, but still a cow.
Let's drift back through the years to the Summer of 1988... El Capitan was taking a sabbatical from college due to low grades and the lack of a suitable degree program in Advanced Alcohol Consumption, Nocturnal Carousing, and Wholesale Herbal Marketing Studies.
My boon companions in those bygone days included a gaggle of brainy desperadoes from Rice University including Woody the Stork, Ken the Freshman, Scotty the Chemist and Rich the Semi-Albino. Also in attendance were High School chums Zibig & Boo-Boo, and a few other slackers and layabouts that we attracted like moths to a flame.
El Capitan's usual routine was to work like a dog Monday through Friday from 8 to 5. Friday afternoon I'd get my paycheck, and dash off to the bank to cash it. 20+ years later, and I still remember the net amount... $187.68.
Cash in hand, I'd head off towards the Rice U. area, and meet the gang at Valhalla, the Graduate pub on campus down in the basement of the Chemistry building.
Ah, Valhalla. In 1988, a plastic cup of Shiner bock was 50 cents. A pitcher was $4. We'd usually forgo the cups, and swill directly from the pitcher. By sundown, we were well-lubricated and looking for a diversion. Following a quick pause for herbal enlightenment at the 45, 90, 180 sculptures, we'd hit the town. (On a side note: Getting laid atop 180 earned a Rice student heap big coup!)
The world was our oyster. In El Capitan's aging chariot "The War Wagon", we could head to Fitzgerald's or Numbers for live music. Lola's for $2 well drinks and the evil concoction known as a Mind Eraser. Or off to La Jalisciense for burritos as big as your arm and cold bottles of Negra Modelo, or over to One's A Meal for pancakes and gyros.
One hot summer evening we decided to head off down Richmond Avenue in search of a bar shaped like a giant boat. Supposedly it was a raucous party bar, and we had to go see what all the fuss was about. I don't recall that we ever made it. I seem to think we got sidetracked by the pints of Guinness and Harp at the Richmond Arms Pub.
Sometime around Dark:30, we felt the need to return to the University area, probably to reload on the marijohoonie supply. In my semi-inebriated state, I felt that a slow crawl down busy streets would be preferable to weaving on the freeways. So, back down Richmond to Shepherd, then south to University.
As we passed the huge strip mall at Richmond & Sage, someone made a comment about all the hicks filling up the parking lot. I'm pretty sure Eddie Murphy's line from '48 Hours' was mentioned. "I've never seen so many backwards-ass country fucks in my life!!"
Houston in 1988 was in the waning years of the Urban Cowboy honky-tonk craze. I'm pretty sure the big nightclub that anchored that strip center used to be the old Faces meatmarket, but it had morphed into a huge country-western joint. Hell, it might have morphed back that summer. I lost a lot of brain cells that year, things get fuzzy...
Anyway, aghast at the huge number of booted, buckled and Stetsoned carousers, we drove in for a closer look. 6 lit-up proto-hippies in a Dodge wagon did NOT blend into that crowd, so we stayed on the edge of the parking lot. For reasons I cannot now fathom, we decided to roll back behind the club. Possibly we were hoping for a left-out keg of beer. Who knows...
We did not find a keg of beer. We did find a life-sized stuffed cow bolted on a 4' x 8' plywood platform! It was just sitting out there, soaking up the sun and rain, and looked pretty ratty. The black hair was worn through in many places, and it looked like more than one cowboy had leaped on its back and applied their spurs. It didn't have real horns, but replacements carved out chunks of two by four and painted white.
Well, this was too good a treasure to leave for the garbage truck. It took all of 10 seconds to convince the guys to get out and help me boost the thing up onto the roof of the station wagon. Damn thing weighed a ton, and it was precariously balanced on the roof luggage rack.
So, imagine if you will, a station wagon full of long-haired & tie-dyed kids reeking of beer and weed creeping out from behind a honky-tonk with a 5 foot tall dead cow standing on the roof of the vehicle, our arms emerging from each window with a death grip on the rough wooden platform.
Luck was with us and the cow that evening... we drove the 10 miles or so back to campus without ever crossing paths with Johnny Law. Man, did we ever get some strange looks from the other drivers. Can't imagine why...
So, safely back from Beyond The Hedges, we dumped Bossy the Cow out in the quad at Hanszen College, and repaired indoors for a refill.
We came back down to find that others had been molesting the cow in our absence. It now sported a racy new paint job, a mix of electric pink and off-white spraypaint stripes and splotches.
So, what to do with a stuffed cow? First thing was to remove it from the platform. A wrench was found, and soon Bossy was jammed into the turf via the long carriage bolts that protruded from three hooves. Without the platform, it weighed less, but was completely lacking in carrying handles. I accidentally wrenched off one of the horns trying to reposition it in front of the Hanszen Commons.
Someone decided that Bossy would look really good perched on the lap of Willy.
Willy is actually William Marsh Rice, the founder and namesake of the university. Now, Willy's been dead for quite a while, but conveniently left a statue in the middle of campus, a statue that has been the target of many minor pranks over the years, and one memorable one that had occured earlier that spring.
My wagon was too big to navigate through hedges and sidewalks, so Bossy was carried to Woody's car "Buffy", the glass-bottomed Chevette. Buffy was small enough to maneuver close enough to the Academic Quad, where we could bail out, dash over to the statue with the cow, and toss it up in Willie's lap.
It seemed a sound plan, and indeed we did actually set foot onto the Quad bearing the expired bovine.
Alas, we had not counted on the increased surveillance by the Campos following that spring's statue rotation prank. No sooner had we reached the base of the statue with the cow when red & blue lights started flashing.
Fortunately, there's nothing in Rice U's Honor Code prohibiting cartage of a dead cow across campus, and Bossy never did come into contact with Willy, so we were banished back to Hanszen with the cow. So close, and yet so far...
I'm not quite sure what became of the cow. I'd like to think it had a place of honor at a Night of Decadence party and was the object of drunken lust, but more likely it got burrowed into by squirrels and eventually got thrown in a dumpster.
So, there you have it. A college prank involving a cow.