Mouse prank divides golf pals Practical joke leads to lawsuit involving old friends

March 28, 1997|By Dana Hedgpeth | Dana Hedgpeth,SUN STAFF

WALKERSVILLE -- Call it the mouse that caused an uproar: A practical joke among two longtime Frederick County golfing buddies -- involving a dead-mouse sandwich -- has turned into a $500,000 lawsuit.

Terry J. Lee filed the suit Monday in Frederick County Circuit Court against the Glade Valley Golf Club, the public club's manager James L. Reck and seasonal maintenance employee Charles F. Shawver, who Lee contends handed him a mustard-covered rodent during a golf outing in December.

The incident and the lawsuit have caused a bit of a stir in this small town northeast of Frederick, where Lee and Shawver live.

According to the suit, Lee says Shawver gave him what he expected to be a hot dog, wrapped in foil before his round of golf at the course.

But when Lee bit down, he discovered "to his horror" that the bun contained a dead mouse covered with mustard, the suit reads.

That sent passers-by into fits of laughter, according to the suit.

Shawver and the golf course manager face a court date.

"I just said, 'Wow! I can't believe this,' when I got served the summons this week," Shawver, 57, said yesterday. "It makes me irate to have something like this happen over a joke and then to think I have to go through litigation.

"This thing started out among friends, but the whole thing just went sour," he said. "I'm sorry it really did happen."

Shawver, who is retired from the federal Department of Energy and only works during the warmer months at the golf course, would not comment in detail on what started the incident, only saying: "What started out as a practical joke between friends has turned into a bitter dispute. That's it."

He says that he, Lee and about a dozen other golfers have played golf together for the past 12 years and have not had any previous disputes.

Shawver admits he laughed that day -- and is still laughing a bit.

Yesterday, he still chuckled about the incident. But, he said, the prank's humor is tempered for him by the realization that it cost him Lee's friendship.

Shawver says he hasn't spoken to Lee since the incident, much less played golf with him.

"I mean, how far can you take a mouse incident?" Shawver asked. "It should have stopped that day, right there."

Lee, a contractor, would only say yesterday: "I can't talk about any of it. I'm taking my attorney's advice, and I'm not going to say anything about the incident. I'm not an expert on these things."

But according to Lee's lawsuit, the incident caused him to suffer "highly offensive contact" with the "hot dog" and "emotional pain," knowing that "dead rodents carry potentially fatal diseases."

How Shawver got the dead mouse into the hot dog bun remains somewhat of a mystery.

Jan Trott, manager of the public country club's snack bar, said yesterday that she was across the hall cleaning at the time of the incident.

"I'm very strict about who comes behind my snack counter, so I'm really not sure how he [Shawver] got back there" to get the hot dog bun, she said.

As to where the mouse came from, Trott said, "Lord knows we certainly have never had any problems with mice in here. We occasionally have a fly, and that's about it."

Shawver, who wasn't working at the course at the time of the incident, won't say where he got the mouse, but employees and golfers at the club say plenty run through nearby farm fields and across the course.

The mouse sandwich and the lawsuit were the cause of much snickering yesterday at the 175-acre golf course off Route 26 north of Frederick.

"When a group of guys get together, they can really get into joking around," said Glade Valley's golf pro, Jeffrey L. Ellis. "Apparently, this one got a bit out of hand for some. It's all in how you take it. It's a shame it turned into a lawsuit for these two guys."

Added Verner Sundell, who golfs at the club and is a neighbor of Shawver's, "Shawver is a very kind, very generous guy. He doesn't have a malicious bone in his body.

"Golfers are pranksters, plain and simple," Sundell added. "They tie each other's shoelaces together. They switch golf balls with the ones that explode. They put paper in one guy's shoes. That's just part of the things men do to men."

But not everyone in Walkersville finds the mouse sandwich so funny.

"It's gross, finding a mouse in your sandwich, and bizarre," said Cindy Stone, 34, who works in Walkersville's town hall. "I don't think it was a joke of good taste. It's just a poor joke."

Pub Date: 3/28/97

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