Pursing

Pursing is an activity that owes its existence to kids with creative, if warped inclinations and too much time on their hands.  The basic necessities required to go pursing are a ladies handbag, a fishing pole with line, a dimly lit suburban intersection and no interest in really doing anything remotely constructive.  The handbag, ideally, should be white.  Pursing hours commence with dusk, and continue through full darkness, so the handbag must be easily visible.  A black handbag would constitute a poor selection.  The intersection must have some traffic, but not too much. You could not effectively purse in Manhattan as there is way too much traffic and no place to hide.  Conversely, rural Kansas would be less than optimal as you might not see a car. A four-way intersection with at least two stop signs is very good.  Four stop signs are perfect.  The fishing line is tied to the handle of the purse, which is then placed in the center of the intersection.  Letting out line as you go, you find a comfortable hiding place about 40-50 yards away, and sit back to see what takes the bait.  Much like fishing, some patience is required.  Not everyone takes the bait.  Some people see an object in a place totally out of context, and proceed to not really see it.  You get the idea though, right?  Sounds like a fun pastime for grade-school kids and maybe immature junior high students.  Well, we were high school seniors. We drove to the selected site, stopping off to pick up beer on the way.  A mature lot were we.

It was a balmy Saturday August night in 1969.  My buddies Donny, Al, Doug, Joe and Vince had declared it a boy’s night out.  All of us were off to college in September, working at summer jobs; landscaping and the like.  We arranged to meet at Doug’s folk’s house, and discuss the evening’s nefarious plans.  I picked Al up, stopped for beer and went to Doug’s house.  The others were already there.  We decided on an intersection, and prepared to set out.  Al went over to greet Doug’s Grandma, Nana.  She was sitting in her usual rocking chair as Al approached.

“Ah, this weather’s awful isn’t it?  The rain’s been coming down in buckets!” Nana griped. The weather had, in fact, been beautiful, but Al went with the flow.

“Yeah, hope it keeps up” Al replied, nodding sagely.

“What the hell you mean ‘Hope it keeps up’ you silly bastard,” Nana frowned, turning in her rocker to look up at Al.

“If it keeps up” Al replied, “it won’t come down.”

“Smart alecks, the whole bunch of you. Wisenheimers” Nana said, her eyes narrowing.

“See you later, Nana” Al said waving, as we went out the door.  We had emptied Nana’s handbag and brought it to use as that evening’s “bait.”

We arrived at the chosen intersection minutes later, and set up shop.  The handbag was attached to the line on the pole, and placed in the intersection.  We retreated about forty yards and found a fine lair, blocked with shrubs and well-concealed, but affording a clear line of vision to the purse. And close enough to hear the dialogue between our potential targets. We all opened beers and settled in.

The first few cars that passed the handbag showed no interest. Maybe they smelled a trap. But it would not be long; people are innately curious.  Minutes later, a car came to the stop sign.  I recognized the car, and knew the guy driving it; a would-be tough guy greaseball named Ricky, out for a spin with his girlfriend.

“Hey, check that out!’ Ricky said to his babe. “Pick it up, maybe there’s cash in there.”

Ricky drove slowly up to the bag and his girl got out to retrieve the purse.  She had almost touched it when we gave the pole a slight pull. The bag moved several inches, and the girl recoiled in horror.

“Ricky, it moves!” she yelped, jumping back into the car.

“Oh for Christ sakes, Diane, how could it move?” Ricky sneered.

“Maybe some animal is in there, I don’t know. But it moved” Diane said, beginning to pout.

“There might be money in that purse; we have to look” Ricky insisted.

“Does money move?” Diane whined.

“Not by itself, no” Ricky conceded. “I’ll take care of this.”

Ricky swung the car in a circle through the intersection, coming back around with the purse on the driver’s side now.  Still in motion, he opened his door and leaned out for a flashy, moving rodeo grab. As his hand brushed the bag, we pulled hard on the pole and the bag skittered several feet. Ricky almost fell out of the car and jammed on the brakes.

“Holy Christ!” Ricky screamed. He slammed his door and the car roared off.

We were rolling around in the bushes, laughing, tapping each others beer cans in a toast.  But the fun was just starting.

A few minutes later, a middle-aged man came along on foot, walking a beautiful Yellow Lab.  He went straight up to the bag and picked it up.  The Lab was far more interested in the myriad scents on the nearby trees and paid the purse no mind.  The man whistled to the dog and set off up the street, the purse in hand, the pooch at his side.

“Whoa, you let the guy pick it up!” I said.

“No problem, we’ll let him run with the ball a little. Watch this!” said Donny, holding the pole.

As the man walked up the street humming, Donny gave the pole a savage jerk. The purse flew out of the guy’s hand , he emitted a high-pitched scream that sounded like a little girl and broke into a full-tilt boogie. The dog broke into a sprint as well, probably frightened more by his owner’s shriek than the purse. They disappeared up the street.

We were beside ourselves; what do you do for an encore? But the frivolity was short-lived. No sooner had we retrieved the purse, repositioned it and got into our cover than a cop car came by.  The Officer got out and went straight over to the purse, picking it up.  He discovered the fishing line and began to follow it, coming straight towards us.  We scattered, all except Joe.  Joe, the guy with 1600 SATs and a scholarship offer from MIT, climbed a tree directly above the fishing pole.  The policeman followed the line to the pole, looked around, and then looked above him. There was Joe up in the tree.

“Hey, what the hell are you doing up there?” the Cop yelled.

“Staaaaaarrrrrgazing” Joe replied.

“Get your ass down here now” the Cop ordered. Joe complied.

We could not hear what was said, but apparently Joe convinced the Cop he was sorry. His tone of voice and body language fit the bill. After warning Joe there would be trouble if he came back and found Joe there, the Cop returned to his car and left. We didn’t.

By this time, there had been a lot of beer consumed, and although we set up the purse again, less and less attention was being paid to the handbag.  We were just shooting the breeze and cracking each other up, when the line on the fishing pole began to whine loudly.  The line was being pulled out so fast we could not touch it.  While we were not watching, someone had picked up the purse, gotten back into his car and driven off;  guy in a little Datsun. I used my lighter to sever the line.

“That’s my Grandmother’s purse!” Doug yelled. “I have to get that back.”

Doug and I ran to my Firebird and we set off in hot pursuit.  The guy in the Datsun had been driving slowly along, but when I flashed my brights and drove up on his ass, he panicked. I can only imagine what was going through his mind. What had he stumbled upon?  A drug deal gone bad? Whatever his thoughts, what ensued was a chase scene reminiscent of Steve McQueen in ‘Bullitt’, minus San Francisco’s hills. The guy seemed to realize his little Datsun was not going to lose my Firebird, and he drove directly to the Police Station, jumped out and ran inside carrying the handbag.  He was just starting to give his story to the Cop at the desk when Doug and I charged in.  I shoved the guy hard, Doug took the purse, and we headed for the door.

“Stop right there. Now!” the Cop ordered.  We did.

We explained our story and the Cop was not amused. He had asked the man if he wanted to press charges and it came to light we were high school seniors in town.

“You must know my son, Wally” the man said. “He’s in your class.”

When he told us his last name, we did indeed know Wally. The man declined to press charges and Doug and I apologized.  Handshakes all around, the man left and the Cop read us the riot act for a few minutes and we were told we could go.

Outside, Doug said “I think I’m putting pursing on pause.”

“Yeah, we’ll give it a little break” I agreed. 

Nana got her handbag back, none the wiser for its absence.

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7 Comments on “Pursing”

  1. damaris moulton Says:

    Oh, you silly boys!!

  2. nancy angelos Says:

    Bunch of trouble makers …. must have been a lot of fun :)

  3. tenafly tickler Says:

    What a glorious way for you boys to pass your summer of 69 whilst avoiding those perinicious gay bar cover charges.

  4. Cathy Says:

    You guys always knew how to have a good time! Reading your stories brings back great memories of you wild and crazy guys! Cathy Peraner

  5. Annie Says:

    You are very, very bad……LOL!

  6. ann s-j Says:

    wish i had been there…but you tell it so beautifully! annie s-j


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