It’s April Fools Day, so beware of pranksters

State Rep. Steve Pugh doesn’t love practical jokes just because he was born on April Fools’ Day. Still, he comes by it naturally.

“I grew up with a prankster,” says Pugh, a Ponchatoula Republican who turned 53 today. “For instance, if I wanted a train for my birthday, Mom would go and buy the train and take the train out of the box and put a brick in it. She’d wrap it and I’d open up the package and go, ‘Oh, my train, my train!’ Then, I’d open up the box and there would be a brick in there. She would not give me the train until the next day, and I’d be all disappointed.”

He’s been making people pay for that disappointment ever since.

Usually, his pranks are planned in advance and sprung on friends. One of Pugh’s favorite tricks involves sending unexpected items in the mail. To cloak his identity, he mails it to someone out of town, who then mails it to the victim. In one case, that was a box of rubber snakes to someone who was — of course — afraid of the real thing. Pugh alerted the victim’s co-workers so they could be in on the fun.

He also finds targets of opportunity.

“Sometimes, somebody’s opening the door in front of you, and I put my foot out there and let it hit my foot and grab my head. ‘Oh, my God, you hit me in the head,’” he says. “They’re all freaking out and panicking.”

He also is not above pranks on fellow legislators. On past April Fools’ Days, he frequently voted opposite his intentions, then had his vote changed.

When Pugh joined the Legislature after being elected in 2007, he sat near Rep. Ernest Wooten, of Belle Chasse, whom Pugh says was another notorious prankster. Pugh isn’t even the only legislator born on April 1. Rep. Tim Burns of Mandeville shares that birthday.

“He doesn’t play it as much as I do, but he enjoys a good prank,” Pugh says.

Sometimes, things backfire.

Formerly a florist, when Pugh would lock up at the end of the day, he would pretend one of his fingers was caught in the door, fooling his children. One day, he really did get a finger caught.

“They didn’t believe me until they saw the blood squirt on the other side of the door,” he recalls.

And, on rare occasions, Pugh becomes a prank victim.

He once invited legislators and statewide elected officials to a gathering at his house that coincided with the Ponchatoula Strawberry Festival.

A longtime family friend, Jane Faulkner, brought a birthday cake she made for Pugh, whose duty was to cut the first piece.

“I put the knife in there and it won’t go through,” he says. “They had iced a pasteboard box, and I couldn’t cut it. So they got that one over on me.”

Faulkner would be wise to handle her mail very carefully.