The Blankenagels, Bill and Donna, live next door to the Swaseys, Wayne and Sheryl. They've been neighbors for about a year. But it's only been the past six months or so that the couples have been good enough friends to throw buckets of water at each other.
A lot of people could live across the street from each other for years, could exchange pleasantries and recipes, could talk about the relative merits of unleaded and super unleaded, and never form that kind of bond.But Bill Blankenagel is the kind of guy who would have shortsheeted your bed at camp, and now that he's grown up, even though he's a responsible citizen, father and a teacher at Bountiful Junior High School, he still gets a charge from playing practical jokes. So one day he threw a bucket of water on Sheryl Swasey, and the next day she threw a raw egg at him.
The practical jokes escalated after that. "I would lay awake at night and I would sit at work and dream about how to do this," Sheryl says of her next gambit.
The two couples live in the Camelot Mobile Home Park in North Salt Lake. For a place where the dwellings could theoretically be attached to a truck and hauled away at a moment's notice, the little community has a pleasant, settled-in feeling.
One night, as the Blankenagels slept, Sheryl tiptoed over to their trailer, taped their screen door shut and covered it with newspaper. It was too windy to rig up the pulley, purchased just for the occasion, that would have dumped a bucket of confetti on the Blankenagels' heads when they opened the door.
Sheryl then set to work gluing hearts, confetti and gold tinsel to the entire surface of the Blankenagels' car. After that she glued on fake cobwebs. "I was going to use Crisco but it would have ruined the finish," she says.
The next morning, Bill and Donna weren't all that surprised to see the havoc Sheryl had wrought. They even sort of laughed when they had to go through the Rub-a-Dub car wash four times to get all the stuff off.
Although the practical jokes are sometimes messy and annoying, the Swaseys and the Blankenagels adhere to a strict code of ethics in these matters.
"The main thing with practical jokes is you don't hurt property or people," Sheryl explains. She had considered tying her neighbors' screen door shut, instead of just taping it, during the screen-door-and-confetti caper but she worried what might happen in case of a fire.
Not everybody likes practical jokes. Wayne Swayse, in fact, mainly just puts up with them. But Sheryl and Donna and Bill grew up with practical jokes. Last spring, Donna's grandmother gave her an Easter basket full of colored horse droppings.
Practical jokes, says Donna, give her a feeling of joyful expectation, like Christmas morning. "Who knows what you'll step into, or touch."
Or be inconvenieced by. At 6:30 a.m. one Saturday morning, the Swayses were awakened by a phone call about the 1982 Cutlass Supreme they had for sale for $100. Sheryl knew right away she wasn't selling her car, especially for $100, and immediately she knew what to do: She gave the caller the Blankenagels' phone number.
When the Blankenagels got the next call, at about 6:45, Bill knew what to do, too: He gave the caller the Swasey's address. But Sheryl was already ahead of him. She drove the car to a nearby parking lot and left it there.
Later in the afternoon, when she knew Bill and Donna weren't home, she got three skeins of yarn and wove an elaborate spider's web in their carport, so they couldn't get to their front door. Then she turned the sprinklers on.
"If I'd had two hours I was going to do something else," says Sheryl. What kind of something else? "Ho! I'm not telling!"
Practical jokes are a good stress outlet, says Sheryl. She likes the creativity it takes to completely fill up a carport with yarn. And she likes the competition.
Some couples play bridge. Others put whistles in each other's tailpipes.