April 01–To deal with the close calls, the homicide scenes, the family homes too burnt to save by the time they arrive, firefighters and law enforcement officers turn to laughter.
“I can’t tell you how many death scenes I’ve been to,” said Tom Rafferty, who served with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and now serves as a reserve deputy at the courthouse.
He didn’t give it much thought at the time but says it makes sense that pranks were pulled in order to bring lighter moments to what can be a difficult-to-bear career path. He and others had to have fun; otherwise, he said, they’d have a hard time dealing with the day-to-day.
And anyway, he added, “Most of the time when we did stuff it was at shift change.” The fun never impeded on their work, he added.
From salt in the sugar bowl to well-crafted, personalized shenanigans, firefighters and law enforcement have their own share of stories.
–Rafferty’s name comes up often when the word “prank” is mentioned, and he admits to pulling quite a few in his time at the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office, including putting a booster chair in the driver’s seat of a very short officer’s patrol car. In response, the officer greased Rafferty’s door handle so he nearly fell down when trying to get into the vehicle. Rafferty’s pranks sometimes became elaborate, like the time he learned a fellow officer’s wife, who was from the Caribbean Islands and practiced voodoo, was angry with her husband. Rafferty asked a friend visiting Golden Corral to bring back the bones of two large chicken legs, which he crossed and placed on the deputy’s car. He then surrounded the bones with a flour circle and surrounded the patrol car in another flour circle. The deputy forced someone else to move the car — he wouldn’t touch it.
–Will Jackson pulled one hot trick on Onslow County’s fire marshal: There was a car fire in July, and while Brian Kelly was battling the blaze Jackson turned on Kelly’s truck and flipped the heat up as far as it would go so it was nice and toasty when he climbed back inside.
–During Onslow County Commissioner Robin Knapp’s career with NCIS, he partnered with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office and was introduced to one deputy as a “Japanese Exchange Detective” from Tokyo named Inspector Yamato. While other officers giggled in the background, the deputy spent nearly an hour speaking very loudly and slowly to Knapp, who would then bow to the deputy and require the deputy to bow in return — a charade Knapp kept up until Knapp spoke in fluent English to the deputy’s shock.
–Zachary Hardison at Turkey Creek Fire and Rescue said there’s nothing quite like putting plastic wrap on a cup to make a pretty mess, or dumping a five-gallon bucket of ice on someone when they’re taking a hot shower. For the rookies, Hardison sends them to the firetruck to get the “hose puller,” only to admit later that the only hose puller around is a firefighter himself. He also calls rookies into the station to clean, telling them after everything is spotless that it’s their day off.
–Ed Duffield, the department head of Fire and Emergency Management Programs at Coastal Carolina Community College, said pouring an entire bottle of hot sauce into leftover chili is always a big hit.
–John Reed, who recently retired as the fire marshal in Jacksonville, remembered some mischief that involved NASCAR and $5. One firefighter bet another $5 on who would win the race, even letting the other pick any car she liked with just three laps to go. She chose the lead car, of course, and was furious when the driver ran out of gas on the last lap, losing. When she went to pay up the next morning everyone around her broke out in laughter as she learned the race was recorded and the bettor knew the ending before he set her up. (She got to keep the money.)
–Christopher George at Camp Lejeune Fire and Emergency Services Department said you never know what’s lurking around the next corner at the firehouse — which usually means spiders and mice of the plastic variety.
–Jeremy Foster with Pumpkin Center Volunteer Fire Department said firefighters commit sneaky little pranks like turning badges and nametags upside-down and throwing pebbles and rocks into boots. He’s done — and had done to him — all of these and more, including putting someone’s uniform shirt into a bowl of water and freezing it. The best one, he said, is adding garlic powder to coffee creamer.
–Col. Donnie Worrell with the Onslow County Sheriff’s Office has seen a prank or two pulled in his career, including when former sheriff Ed Brown got in on one of them. An officer left the keys to his patrol car inside the vehicle and, after another officer moved the car to a different location, Worrell said Brown claimed someone was speeding down the highway in a stolen sheriff’s office car and wanted to know what happened, which left that forgetful officer extremely freaked out.
By Amanda Thames, The Daily News, Jacksonville, N.C.
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