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Story ID:8686
Written by:Frederick William Wickert (bio, link, contact, other stories)
Story type:Story
Location:Prattsville New York USA
Person:Mr. Ferdinand
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By Fred Wickert

I went to high school in a remote area in the Catskill Mountains. The school itself was located in the middle of nowhere. The students were bused to school for the most part. Fewer than a half dozen walked and a few of the older students drove to school. The school district itself included a number of villages and hamlets and covered parts of several townships. The student population were for the most part, either from farm families or farming related businesses. They were a strong, healthy, rugged and boisterous lot. Teachers from a rural background did well, but city oriented teachers often did not do so well in that environment. They just didn't understand country people.

One such faculty member was the school librarian. He was a city slicker. His name was Mr. Ferdinand. The kids generally did not like him. He had a lot of bluster to him and liked to threaten the kids all the time. Being threatened did not sit well with farm kids. When threatened, it often brought forth a challenge.

The autumn of 1950 found the prospect of approaching Halloween to be rather exciting to the boys in the school and plans for deviltry were being discussed frequently and openly. One of the villages in the school district was a place about seven miles from the school, called Prattsville. There was some discussion that the previous year's activities in Prattsville on Halloween night had got a little out of hand and as a result, the state police were planning to be in Prattsville in force.

Students without a class were usually assigned to the library for study hall, always under the supervision of Mr. Ferdinand. A day or two before Halloween Mr. Ferdinand came in to the library as a number of boys from Prattsville were discussing plans for Halloween. Mr. Ferdinand lived in Prattsville. There were a few single teachers who also lived in the same apartment building in Prattsville and who rode with Mr. Ferdinand to and from school each day in his car.

Overhearing the boys discussing plans for Halloween in Prattsville, Mr. Ferdinand threatened the boys. He told them they had better not do anything to his car or apartment or they would be sorry. He said he was going to have the state police take care of them if they dared go near anything of his. He should not have said that. To those boys, it was a challenge that could not be let go.

On Halloween night, as advertised, the state police were making their presence known. The kids were ready for them. State Route 23 runs through the village of Prattsville. There are side streets going in to the mountains on one side of town, but the other side of town the streets are very short as the Schoharie Creek flows there. The side streets end at the creek. The only bridge across the creek is on Route 23 at the western end of town. As the state police were at or near one end of town there was suddenly a fire at the other end of town. A stack of bales of hay had suddenly appeared across the road and was set on fire. The state police rushed to it to see what was going on. Then on the other end of town, three or four out houses had been dumped side by side across the road and doused with gasoline and set on fire. The state police and anyone else who wanted to leave town could not. For a short time at least, the town was cut off on both ends. The state police had been effectively dealt with.

On the morning of November 1st, Mr. Ferdinand and his passenger teachers came out of their apartments and converged on Mr Ferdinand's car. Mr. Ferdinand announced to the other teachers rather smugly, that he guessed the boys had heeded his warning. The tires were all up. No air had been let out of them. There also was no trace of soap on his car windows. The car had been untouched, or so it appeared.

Mr. Ferdinand got in his car. The other teachers riding with him got in also. The car was started and the seven mile trip to the school was begun. It was cold that November morning with the temperature near freezing or perhaps slightly below freezing. After the temperature gauge had risen enough, the heater was turned on. In minutes the occupants of the car were gagging with tears in their eyes. The stench was enormous. Windows had to be opened in order to stand being inside the car at all.

In those days, the heater radiator for cars was hung below the glove compartment on the passenger side and was easy to get to. Someone had gotten in to the car and smeared Limburger cheese into the radiator grid of the car's heater. For those who are not familiar with Limburger cheese, it is a very foul smelling cheese that comes in brick form much like a pound of butter. It is also a soft cheese and easily rubbed into small holes such as those in a radiator. When the heat of the engine heated coolant began circulating in the radiator it partially melted the cheese enhancing the putrid smell of it. Then when the heater fan was turned on it blew the smell from the radiator into the occupied area of the car.

It is not known whether or not Mr. Ferdinand reported it to the state police, but if so, they never questioned any of the boys about it. Nothing was ever mentioned about it again. Mr. Ferdinand did not seek to renew his contract another year and moved on elsewhere at the end of the school year.


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