Duane Sherrill

Craig slammed the door shut, pushing his weight against the flimsy wooden door as the would-be intruder banged on the other side, his strikes so hard it appeared the door may come off its frame at any moment.

“Let me in!” a loud voice came from the other side, the beating on the door intensifying.

“We need to let him in,” I looked at Craig as he strained to hold the door shut against the onslaught from outside. “He’s going to break in the door.”

With a stunned look, Craig looked me right in the eyes while at the same time lifting up a piece of metal rebar he had picked as his weapon of choice against the loud-mouthed trespasser. Then, clenching his teeth in defiance, he menacingly waved the piece of metal under my nose.

“Edd Womack is NOT coming into this house!” he growled, brandishing the makeshift weapon as the banging outside continued.

Perhaps I should explain. “Yes, Sherrill. Please do,” I can hear you say as you try to wrap your head around my jumping right into the climax of the story.

I think we’ve all played a zinger on our friends before, pulling off that one classic prank that stands the test of time and still comes up in conversation decades later. Myself, I’ve been on both ends of the horse, playing as the mark in some cases and the snickering from the shadows as a prankster in others.

However, there’s one prank that sticks out in my mind, not just because of its hilarity, but also due to its length, as it lasted well over two months before the big reveal. It was truly an instant classic, and our victim in that case both works in Tullahoma and is a reader of The News. I think I’m going to get a text this morning. His name has been changed to protect my liability.

I think the best jokes are the jokes you don’t plan, the ones you just happen to fall into. This was the case of the Edd Womack prank which began innocently enough back when I was working as the crime guy at my old newspaper. I used to get a lot of calls, many having to do with folks who wanted to keep their names out of the paper after they were arrested for drunk driving or some other crime.

“It’s going to kill my grandmother if she reads it,” people would say.

I have to confess, I wasn’t always the sweetheart I am today. My response would sometimes be “Well then, you better not let your grandmother read the paper,” or “You should have thought about that before you went out drunk driving.” I resisted the “I’ll send flowers to the funeral” response.

As you can guess, this made a few folks mad, so I’d get some angry calls once in a while. However, being the Solomon I am, I was usually able to calm folks down without cutting the baby in half. But then there’s some folks who can’t be reasoned with.

There was one such day that someone was giving me an earful, loud enough that Craig, who had a desk near me, could hear them yelling.

“I’m going to come down there and whoop your (blank), Sherrill!” he screamed, his threat raising Craig’s brow. Craig had always been the nervous type.

“You know where I’m at, tough guy!” I responded, his yelling bringing out my redneck side while at the same time bringing out my mean spirited side. “Craig will whoop your (blank).”

I slammed down the phone with a grin. “He ain’t going to do nothing,” I said confidently. “It’s the quiet ones you got to worry about.”

I looked over to see Craig’s face, ashen white, his jaw dropped, his eyes wide. “Why’d you tell him that?” he said in a stunned tone. “He’s going to come down here and kill us; kill me.”

“Don’t worry about it,” I said. “I get threats all the time and I still got all my teeth.”

Unbeknownst to me, we weren’t the only people party to our conversation for sitting behind Craig was Jim, our county-beat reporter. He was a decent reporter but an incredible prankster. And, his especial was voices. He was all the time making crank calls messing with people. This was before cellphones, back in the 90s.

So, a few minutes go by and there’s a call for Craig. He answers it and the color immediately leaves his face. I can hear yelling on the other side. It sounded like the voice of a country hick, reminiscent of Bubba Skynard, the fictional personality that used to be on 103 KDF radio for those old schoolers.

I smelled a rat so I got up and walked down the hall. It didn’t take long for me to figure out the source of the call as Jim was sitting the editor’s office, his hand over the mouthpiece. He looked up and grinned. I turned and walked back to my desk just as Craig hung up the phone.

“Edd Womack’s coming down here to whip my, you know, my rear,” Craig said almost in tears. “It’s all your fault. You got to do something.”

I again reassured him that everything would be fine and that no one was whupping anyone’s rear. About that time Jim rounded the corner, acting like he’d overheard our conversation.

“Edd Womack just got out of jail for assault,” he said, holding a straight face. “I know the family. He’s trouble. I wouldn’t be messing with him.”

The seed had been planted. For the next few weeks, Craig was nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs. And, to help him along, Jim would make a weekly call to him and would make sure the operator knew the call was from Edd Womack on those occasions Craig was afraid to answer.

There were even letters written from Edd, sent to Craig at the office. They were written in authentic mountain gibberish and each ended with the promise to whup Craig’s butt. It even got to the point Craig was getting calls at home from the guy. We even recruited people in the community to provide Craig with further backstories about Edd Womack. By the way, where I’m from its pronounced (Wahmick), all one syllable.

Yes. I agree. It had gotten a bit out of hand. So, all the co-conspirators had a meeting. We were going to let him off the hook but not without one last blast. We planned it for a big party we were having at the house Craig shared with several other members of the staff. There were about 30 people there since the guys knew how to throw a party.

Then, about mid-way through the evening some of us are standing on the back deck when from the dark woods comes “I see you, Craig.” It’s the voice of Edd Womack. “I want to have a talk with you, boy.”

Craig comes apart. He runs into his bedroom and brings out a piece of rebar. That’s when the pounding comes at the door. Oh, did I mention everyone at the party is in on this except for Craig? They are all playing their part, looking concerned that things are about to break loose.

“Let me in!” comes the voice of Edd Womack as he beats at the door.

It’s at that point that Craig states those famous words that “Edd Womack is NOT coming in to this house.”

I’m able to get the rebar out of Craig’s hand just as the door bursts open. It’s Jim with a huge smile on his face.

“It’s me … Edd Womack!” he yells in the mountain gibberish as he give Craig a kiss on the forehead.

Craig stands flabbergasted and confused. “There’s no such person as Edd Womack,” Jim spells it out.

It’s at this point you don’t know your mark is going to react. However, to our relief he grins and hugs Jim’s neck.

“You don’t know how relieved I am that there’s no Edd Womack,” he said as you could feel a wave of relief sweep over him. “I was about to buy a gun.”

Um, maybe we shouldn’t have taken it that far but then, with friends like us, who needs enemies?

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