What’s the best practical joke you’ve ever played? For me, jacking around with my riding buddies is almost as fun as the riding itself. As I cleaned out the desk in my home office this morning, I came across this old Polaroid photo of my long-lost riding buddy Butterbean.

We called him Butterbean because like the boxer with that famous moniker, our buddy was big, bald, and burly. Butterbean was a fun guy to be around at the track. Always laughing and kidding around, he was also one of those guys who constantly pestered me about being in the magazine. “Hey Donn, if you ever need a test rider, I’d be happy to help out.” If I had a dollar for every volunteer test-riding humanitarian I’ve come across, I’d be kicking it on a beach in Hawaii, not editing a motocross magazine. Anyway, when a size large helmet showed up at our offices one day, the wheels in my head began to turn. Since Butterbean was the only person I knew who required a size large helmet, I phoned him up and asked if he would be willing to test a new helmet out for me. Butterbean’s enthusiasm exuded through the phone line, and neither of us could wait for the weekend.

That night, I bought a box of food coloring at the grocery store, making sure that blue was among the colors in the box. When I got home, I turned the helmet upside down and proceeded to soak the blue liner with the entire bottle of blue food coloring. By the time Sunday rolled around, the liner was completely dry and I repacked the helmet inside its bag and box.

Butterbean was like a kid on Christmas morning when I handed him the new lid. He slipped it on quickly and proceeded to turn in the fastest laps and longest moto I’d ever seen from him. (Funny how something like a new piece of riding gear or a new trick part on your bike can have that effect.) When he returned to the pits, sweaty yet smiling, he had nothing but praise for his “test helmet.” “Oh man, this thing is the most comfortable helmet I’ve ever worn, and it breathes well, too!” he said.

When Butterbean removed the helmet and wiped the sweat from his brow, it took everything in me and my other buddies to keep from laughing. As you’ll see in the photo, the helmet padding left perfectly-shaped blue impressions on his shaved skull, as his perspiration had reactivated the dried-up food coloring. Butterbean sat unsuspecting in our pits, looking like an Egyptian priest, for at least half an hour before an unknowing friend rolled up and asked him when he had gotten the ridiculous tattoos on his head.

Later that day, Butterbean called on the phone and reported that he had to scrub his head for 15 minutes in the shower to get the blue out, and that he had gotten plenty of funny looks in the restaurant on the way home.

In the weeks that followed I found that goggle foam works just as well, and played the joke on several of my other friends with equal success. (Applying the food coloring to only the bottom sections of the goggle foam yields a football-player look!) The one and only time that the joke didn’t work was when I tried it on Greg Albertyn one day. Though I switched his Smiths out with my “colored” ones with the precision of a Las Vegas magician, the suspicious South African noticed that the foam had a blue tint to it before he put them on. Oh well…

Butterbean, if you’re out there somewhere, I guess you’ve finally gotten your wish. It may have taken several years, but here you are, smack-dab in the middle of a page in the magazine!

-Donn Maeda

(If this column happens to conjure up any copycat pranks, be sure to send photos and tales of success! In fact, the best photo and story will win a prize of some sort…Editor.)