Life could be dull and boring in the little Colorado River village of Yuma in the early days, but there often were events which caused laughter and some embarrassment. Lacking entertainments that larger and more sophisticated cities enjoyed, local citizens often made their own fun with practical jokes.
Building owner John Stofella put a good one over on a renter in 1895. Carmen Sortillion was renting a house from him, but had a falling out with her landlord. Stofella was furious with Carmen and decided to get even. His opportunity came when he found a dead man out in the desert near Yuma. After lugging the body back to town, Stofella used his key to enter Carmen's house. He placed the dead man in Carmen's bed, let himself out, and locked the door.
You can imagine Carmen's surprise when she came home. Stofella probably bragged about his exploit in one of the local saloons and thought his pranks quite hilarious. Carmen didn't, and sued Stofella in Judge O.H. Willis' court. Neither did the judge. The joke cost Stofella $100 and court costs.
In an article in the Arizona Highway Patrolman in 1980, B. Johnny Rube described two stunts which victimized Yuma policemen. The first began innocently enough when a woman attempted to beat Yuma's summer heat.
She took a stroll down Main Street as naked as a jay bird. Before her walk had progressed very far, a policeman spotted her. He caught up with her as she approached the Arizona Hotel and placed her under arrest.
Police Chief Henry Levy had heard about the unclad shopper and arrived on the scene just after the patrolman made the arrest. The next problem was to figure out how to get the Lady Godiva to the police station without too much attention. The department lacked both an automobile or paddy wagon in those days.
Fortunately for the puzzled cops, a new automobile came cruising down Main Street while they considered their dilemma. It was one of the first cars in town and owned by F.S. Ming, a prominent businessman. Seizing the opportunity, Chief Levy stopped Ming and ordered the woman to climb into the car. “Drive us to the police station,” Levy ordered Ming. Taken by surprise at the request, Ming obeyed.
As they drove up to the police station, the naked woman thought she should show her appreciation for such fine transportation. Before she got out of the vehicle, she gave Ming a big hug, much to his chagrin. Chief Levy and the officers roared with laughter as Ming's face turned bright red.
Ming took a lot of kidding about the incident, but he soon got even. Three weeks later, he invited Chief Levy to take a ride out in the new vehicle. Five miles out of Yuma, Ming stopped the car and asked Levy to get out and check to see if one of the tires was flat. As soon as the chief got out, Ming drove away, leaving Levy in the dust.
The police chief began walking back to town. Luckily for him, Ming began to feel sorry for the officer and retuned to pick him up after he had hoofed it for three miles. It was Ming's turn to laugh when he gave the weary police chief a ride. “Now blame you,” he announced, “will you ever throw another nude woman in my auto and laugh at me when she gives me the glad hug?”
A policeman named Ellis was the victim of another practical joke in November of 1929. The pranksters were members of the Elks lodge and knew that the officer had a weakness for the female sex.
Their stunt began when three scantily dressed girls drove an automobile down Main Street on the evening of Nov. 8. The slow speed of the vehicle and their seductive clothing seemed to indicate they were in a celebratory mood and seeking a little action. Patrolman Ellis on the downtown beat was attracted by the trio since the ladies seemed to be flirting with him. He was not the type to ignore an amorous advance.
Forgetting his duties, Ellis climbed into the vehicle with the three beauties. They shared a bottle with him and the party soon became boisterous as they cruised back and forth on Main Street. After a time, the foursome began singing loudly enough to wake up the guests in the downtown hotels. Someone placed a call to the police station complaining about the disturbance that was ruining everyone's rest.
Other officers answered the call and were dismayed to discover a member of the police department helping to cause the disturbance. They arrested the party as well as their fellow officer. It wasn't until the sexy ladies removed their wigs, washed the rouge from their faces, and removed their dresses, revealing that they were wearing trousers, that Ellis realized he was the butt of a joke. All three were men, one of them a local judge.