Somewhere in a Kirksville, Missouri police station there sits a file bearing the names of me and my husband, all thanks to the Great Wagon Wheel Caper of ’99.
It wasn’t premeditated; but I don’t know that it could be called a crime of passion either. It was more an incident à la alcohol, if you will. But what did you expect? We were just college kids after all.
It started as a fairly typical Saturday night. Kurt and I had probably eaten some Totino’s party pizzas for dinner before heading over to a little pre-party at the off-campus house of some of his fraternity brothers. Beer was consumed, probably Natty Light, after which we decided to make our way over to the fraternity house for the rest of the evening.
Kurt and I strolled along the quiet streets of Kirksville, passing lot upon lot of sub-standard housing that is deemed as passable living quarters only in third world countries and college towns. About halfway to the fraternity house, we came to the former living quarters of some friends of ours. They had lived there the year before, but now the house was slated for demolition after the university had purchased the land for its own use. It was actually one of the nicer off-campus houses in the town, and Kurt and I drunkenly lamented over its impending destruction. More specifically, we lamented over the destruction of the country-kitschy oversized wagon wheel lawn ornament in front of the house…in the way only drunk co-eds can.
Kurt: “I can’t bu-llleive they’re gonna tear down that *hic* wagon wheel.”
Kelly: “They always get rid of all the good stuff. Why’re they always getting rid of the good stuff? I mean, they cancelled “Boy Meets World” and now the wagon wheel? The wagon wheel’s like the Topenga of Kirksville. Oh sorry, I think I just spit when I said Topenga.”
Kurt: “If we ever have a daughter, let’s name her Topenga.”
Kelly: “Topenga Suellentrop? That’s f*ckin’ ridiculous. You’re ridiculous. …I’m gonna pour one out for the wagon wheel.”
Logically, our next thought was that this wagon wheel, which was made of steel, roughly the height of my 6’6 boyfriend, and anchored into the ground, would make a perfect sentimental souvenir for Tim, Tom, and Bob, our friends who had lived in the house. We laughed so hard at the prospect of walking up to the fraternity house with the giant wagon wheel in tow. So it was quickly settled. We were going to steal that wagon wheel.
Now, my husband always likes this part of the story because he comes out looking like a total stud muffin. He noticed that the wheel was anchored into the ground by a steel bar. He couldn’t pull it out, but he could push and pull the wheel to try to free it from its base. There was a lot of grunting, I remember. But after a little while, my haus of a boyfriend was able to break the wagon wheel free. That’s right. He actually snapped steel in two, securing my undying love for him with that supreme gesture of manly man-ness. All the while, I held the six-pack of beer. So I was doing important stuff, too.
Now that the wagon wheel was liberated, we had to get it to the fraternity house. Did I mention that it was huge? Because it was huge. And heavy. And the only way we could see fit to move it was to literally roll it down the street. We were like those old-timey kids who used to entertain themselves by pushing wooden hoops along with sticks…but wasted.
This was to be our crowning moment. Neither of us had ever done anything like this before. We were like the Bonnie and Clyde of Adair County. It was exhilarating. It was going to be the talk of the party. It was…oh crap. Cop car.
We knew we were bound to draw suspicion. Two kids, carrying a six-pack of beer (we were legal, thankfully), and rolling a giant wagon wheel down the street. So what did we do? Set the wagon wheel against a tree and try to hide behind it. Not.suspicious.at.all.
Of course, the cop stopped us…and asked what the hell we were doing. Meanwhile, I’ve already mentally given him my fingerprints and was trying to decide who I would contact with my one phone call.
Thankfully, Kurt remained calm. And he did the honorable thing: he told the truth. We weren’t really doing anything wrong, after all. Were we? I guess technically that wagon wheel belonged to the university, but were we really stealing it if it was just going to be demolished the next week? And of course we played up our altruistic purposes in all of this. We’re just doing this for our friends. They loved that house. They loved that wagon wheel. And we assured him we were just taking it right up the street to the fraternity house where we would show it off to the masses and then promptly put it in the dumpster.
Cop: “I need you both to give me your ids.”
This is how it happens, I thought. This is how you become a felon.
Kurt: “Are we in trouble, officer.”
I’m going to have a record. I’ll never get a teaching job now. My parents are going to kill me.
Cop: “No. But you make sure you take that wagon wheel straight to the dumpster. I’m just getting your information so in case anyone gets killed by a wagon wheel tonight, I know who to question first.”
And that was that. I felt lucky to have been stopped by a cop with a sense of humor. Or maybe he also felt that the Topenga of Kirksville deserved to have one last moment of glory. (Everyone is a closeted “Boy Meets World” fan. Everyone.)
So we continued on our mission and arrived at the fraternity party with both our six-pack of beer and our wagon wheel, which we presented to Tim, Tom, and Bob. It was one of the greatest gestures of friendship the world has ever seen. Or one of the greatest random drunken exploits. Maybe the fact that the wagon wheel did indeed end up in the dumpster speaks to which one it truly was.
Make me feel better about my criminal record and share your own story about breaking the rules.