Sometimes practical jokes that seem hilarious for an instant are pretty stupid in hindsight.
Hayden and I were in Williamsburg this past weekend and as the fading Fall colors and warmer than seasonal temperatures surrounded us, so did many memories. I thought back to one particular William and Mary homecoming and an enjoyable Friday cocktail party that began the weekend.
Hayden’s college roommate's family owned a comfortable little condo at Kings Mill Resort. The patio adjoined one of the manicured golf courses of the property and had a beautiful view of the fairway and a creek in the distance. This was a par 4 and while the condo was not in any danger of being hit by a tee shot, the dogleg to the green put the patio in range of a second shot slice. As those of you who play golf know, the long iron second shot slice is an all-American favorite.
We had gathered on the patio and in the little glade of woods that formed a buffer between the condos and the fairway below. At that point in the afternoon there was an intergenerational group of about 25 alums gathered for cocktails and snacks. It was a perfect October day with the leaf colors at their peak and the air fresh and clear.
As we talked and partied, a couple golf shots found the treetops, but none threatened our gathering. Then, suddenly, we heard a distant shout of “Fore!!!” from the fairway to our left and a ball came in hot, ricocheted in the trees above and landed about 15 feet from our gathering.
I sprang into action with what seemed like a brilliant move. I grabbed the ball, hopped into the middle of our group, laid down on the grass, and instructed everyone to gather around me. Hilarious, eh?
For what seemed like an eternity, my chuckling accomplices and I stayed in position as a golf cart parked at the bottom of the hill and two embarrassed golfers climbed the bank. As I was gently placing the ball in my mouth for the funny reveal, I heard one of the golfers exclaim, “Oh my God”. It was then and only then that I truly put myself in the place of the guy who hit the shot and pictured his view as he crested the hill. A crowd, silent and somber, and two upturned feet from a prone “victim”.
Effusive apologies and words of concern filled the silent air as the crowd parted and the shaken golfer finally was able to look down into my face. When he saw the ball in my mouth, and I started laughing, all my fellow actors joined in. Thank God so did both golfers and we enjoyed the moment together. The owner of the shot did say that I had scared him to death and as I was handing beers to him and his partner, I apologized for what could have been a not so funny moment for a golfer with say, an undiagnosed heart condition.
We added a plate of snacks to the peace offering and I threw the ball down into the fairway and pronounced, “lucky bounce” as they walked down the hill. I have thought of the prank many times since that day and while regretful of the way I set it up, I would have done something. Ball in the ice cooler, ball in the hors d’oeuvres, ball inside the condo, ball in my shirt, or ball in Wanda’s cleavage are the top five at this point.
Note: So where did the Scottish warning cry of “fore” to those in the path of a golf ball originate? Nobody knows for sure but there are two theories. In the early days of the game a “fore-caddy” was stationed down range to track and find golf balls in the gorse and heather. When balls would fly too close to them, the golfer would yell, “Fore-Caddy!” as a warning. That was eventually shortened to “Fore”. The other theory is that it is a contraction of the Gaelic cry “Faugh A Ballagh” which means Clear the way and is used in the sport of road bowling.