The fall always reminds me of one of my favorite pranks I have ever pulled.

Many years ago, when I was a senior in high school (our school name started with an H), I got really into our school's football team and going to the games. Our team was in the midst of an insane string of league championships (I think it's up to 15 straight and still going), so being a fan at the game was always fun because we almost always won. But the one school that consistently challenged us (though never beating us), was our crosstown rival, C High.

The rivalry was a good one on a multitude of levels. They had these awful yellow and green uniforms, and all their girls were trashy. Meanwhile, we were the preppy, red and black-wearing cooler kids of the town. We were better at football and basketball, they at soccer and volleyball. Baseball was a toss-up every year. The mutual hate was evident.

Our senior year, the annual football game was at C. All that week, we'd come to class and see our campus covered with toilet paper, the trees painted yellow and green, the "H sucks, C rules" banners placed strategically on the tops of buildings. By Wednesday I had had enough. So I hatched a plot.

Thursday night, the night before the big game, I dug through my closet to find my oldest black clothes. Then I slipped into the garage and found my father's garden sprayer and a can of black spray paint and stashed them in the bushes in the front yard. And then I waited. Finally, at the appointed time, I snuck out of the house, grabbed the sprayer and the paint and met my buddy, with whom I had conspired to launch our prank. We took a quick drive to the Shell station, filled up the sprayer and another little spray bottle with a few bucks worth of 87 octane gas. Listened to Pearl Jam during the ten minute ride over to the C campus, pumping ourselves up.

The field was dark. We hopped the fence surrounding the field, keeping to the shadows until we were out of direct view from the street. Out onto the field, right to the 50 yard line, dead center. I pulled out my spray paint and roughly painted an H on the center of the field. It was enormous, probably about 15 yards tall. I couldn't begin to estimate how wide, but it was proportional. Just a quick outline you see, to make sure that my buddy and I were working within the same parameters.

Then we sprayed.

We probably bought a lot more gas than we needed. I know we covered the whole of the inside of the H a couple times each with layers of gas. We were at it for a good twenty minutes, making sure we got every drop onto the field. All the while my buddy and I are telling jokes and imagining ourselves as anonymous heroes the next night at the game.

When we finally exhausted our supply of gas, what, dear reader, do you think we did? Drop a match on it? Nope. Just left.

Did we wuss out, you ask? Not a chance. A little horticulture lesson for you. Gas is extremely toxic to grass. Kills it practically on absorption. However, most of the time, if you spill a little gas from your mower on your lawn or something like that, the grass does not absorb the gasoline in high enough concentrations do to any serious damages. But when those concentrations are high enough, the grass turns yellow and dies within a few hours. So we left, knowing full well that the next night we, and a few thousand other fans, would walking into the C High football field and find a giant H dominating the middle of their field.

All day Friday my buddy and I could barely contain our excitement. We couldn't wait to see our handiwork and watch everyone else in the stands look at it and cheer. It took everything we had to not reveal our secret. But we kept silent.

That night he was a little late in picking me up for the game, but it was cool. The anticipation just built up a little more. By the time we got to the field, I was practically jumping trying to get a bird's eye view of the field.

And then I saw it.


The field looked healthy and green. The center of the field looked especially great. We were crushed. For the whole first quarter, we looked crestfallen, devastated that our great plan had failed so miserably.

But as the second quarter rolled around, and I kept looking longingly at the middle of the field, noticing the healthy green of the grass, I started to realize that the rest of the field didn't look as healthy as the center. It had strands of yellow in it, like a normal football field would in the late months of fall as winter slowly approaches. Meanwhile the center of the field was bright green.

In fact, it was too green. I was puzzled.

Then I started to notice the green streaks on the yellow football pants of the opposing team. The random shocks of green on our black football helmets. And it hit me. The groundskeepers had painted the middle of the field green to cover our work.

Personally, I was pretty impressed. Great improvisation, I thought. And the C football team seemed to respond, playing down for down with our team. But as the second half moved toward half time, the disparity in the teams started to become apparent. We went up a field goal. Then picked off a pass, and punched it into the end zone three plays later. As the opposition started to falter, so did the performance of the groundskeeper's paint. The middle of the field started to transform.

Half time was especially bittersweet. The C High band did their big field show, and while they sounded great, their white marching shoes had a healthy green hue by the end of the performance, and the H was becoming clearly visible. As the band left the field, the home stands slowly fell silent. I watched with delight from across the field as a number of C fans kept pointing the the center of the field and raising their arms in anger.

Our team owned the second half in every respect. I think they ran up something like 35 points that half and only gave up a field goal. And by the middle of the third quarter, the H on the field might as well have been glowing pink. It was that visible. From my vantage point, I could see our entire bench laughing it up and enjoying themselves. I even saw the coaching staff getting a few chuckles as they pointed at the field and smiled, knowing they had clinched yet another league championship and had done so at a hostile field that had lost all hostility and had become a fountain of levity.

I think it's safe to say that we won the prank war that year.

The following week at class, my buddy and I heard people talking about the mysterious H all over the place, singing its praises and wondering alound who had done such a terrific thing. The temptation to spill was rough, but neither of us said a thing. It was much more fun to just listen to everyone else and surreptiously slap high fives.

In later weeks we heard that the C football team had made a pact that if any of them ever found out who had defiled their field, they would collective go beat the shit out of them. So while I've had an entire football field out for my ass for some time, to this day, I'm still sitting pretty and sipping drinks with little parasols in them. And in the spring, I heard that they had to re-sod the entire field because of the damage caused by the enormous H some assholes had burned into the middle of the field. Oops, we didn't mean it to go that far. But oh well -- fuck with us and you'll get it back twice over.

Certainly the greatest prank I've ever pulled, and one of my most anonymous successes. Until now. And just in case you couldn't tell, I'm pretty proud of that one.