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Outdoors Outpost
Hunt the Gowk Day
Wednesday, April 9, 2014 • Posted April 9, 2014

When Europe adopted the Gregorian Christian calendar in 1582, New Year’s Day was moved from April 1 to January 1, which, as you can imagine, caused a lot of computer billing errors. After that, anyone who still celebrated the new year on April 1 was mocked, ridiculed, made fun of, and generally debased to the point they pretty much had to just quit. Thus began the tradition of playing jokes on people the first day of April. Or not.

There are other theories of how April Fools’ Day began, but I don’t care. I’m going with that one. Mainly because I like to say ‘Gregorian.’

No nation recognizes April Fools’ Day officially, but the practice of playing pranks on one’s fellowman is generally accepted everywhere except very poor countries, where people can’t afford jokes. This is sad, but there you go. And in some places it’s called by different names.

France, for example, calls the day something silly, in French, which you really don’t need to know. Forget I mentioned France. Ireland, on the other hand, calls April 1 ‘Hunt the Gowk Day.’ (Gowk is pronounced ‘very carefully’) In Ireland a gowk is a cuckoo, and is a reference to a foolish person. But then, anyone who says ‘gowk’ sounds pretty foolish. Just sayin.

One thing that’s never varied about April Fools’ Day since its inception, and remains constant no matter the country or year, is the April Fools’ Grouch. This is the person, typically humor impaired, who takes offense when someone plays a joke on them, and actually gets angry.

In the interest of proper human relations and general order, we should all be sensitive to the feelings of others, especially if they choose not to participate in stupid customs and traditions. We should take care to identify those people who honestly don’t appreciate practical jokes and, to the best of our ability, try to get those people with the absolute best pranks we can come up with. Because, let’s face it, those people are way more fun to irritate.

The Grouches turn up everywhere, even in Texas. Some of them took offense at an April Fools’ Post on the Texas Hill Country Facebook page this year, which made the prank way more fun for everyone. Jokes are always more enjoyable when someone gets real mad. Don’t ask me why.

This particular post included a picture of a Western Diamondback rattlesnake, in striking position, in a patch of Bluebonnets, which happen to be the State Flower of Texas. The picture was photoshopped to make the snake’s diamonds blue. The post said that rattlesnakes in Texas had evolved to better hide among Bluebonnets, and we need to be careful about tromping around in them for our Spring Bluebonnet pictures and such.

The post also included a link to an article, ostensibly from something called ‘Texas Biology Today,’ which appeared to corroborate the story. It said the new species of rattlesnake was discovered in Bend, and called the snake Crotalus Lupinus, which is French for Texas Bonnet Rattlesnake. As far as you know. Unless you’re French. Maybe even then.

The article also referred to something called the Texas Identification and Taxonomy Association, and quoted its founder, one Dr. William Nye. Which should have been a dead giveaway in itself, but there you go.

Of course, most people realized right away this was a joke. They even posted stuff to that effect. Stuff like, ‘Ha ha,’ and ‘Good one,’ and ‘April Fools!’ and ‘This is a joke,’ and ‘This really is a joke, right?’ and ‘I hope this is a joke.’ And if only those people had posted, that would have been pretty boring.

But some thought it was an Actual News Item. The folks in that camp either believed it or not. The ones who believed it were mildly amusing, but the ones who didn’t, who got angry about it, were hilarious. It’s like they expect everyone to refrain from playing April Fools’ Jokes just because THEY don’t like April Fools’ Jokes. They seem to be oblivious to the fact that people play April Fools’ Jokes BECAUSE people like them get angry about stuff like that. As Bill Shakespeare once wrote, “Gooseth not he who jumpeth not when goosethed, for he is no fun.” Or words to that effect.

So many gullible people saw the Texas Bonnet Rattlesnake post, and tried to Google it, that the prank made the Snopes website within a couple of hours. Which is quite an accomplishment in itself, I think.

No, there is no such thing as a rattlesnake with blue diamonds. There are, however, people who are so lacking in humor that they take offense at harmless pranks. These people deserve our pity, not our scorn, because it’s not their fault. We need to be sensitive to these folks, and show compassion and understanding toward them.

And whenever possible we need to put IcyHot on their suppositories . . .

Kendal Hemphill is an outdoor humor columnist and public speaker who never plays practical jokes except on April first, and other days. Write to him at PO Box 1600, Mason, Tx 76856 or jeep@verizon.net

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