You won't find it immortalized in poster form at Payson High School as one of the six pillars of the Character Counts program, but the PHS Student Council is working very hard to make "extortion" as valuable a tool as trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
The council has come up with a can't-miss fund-raising idea that is fun, original, and, best of all, 100 percent profit. The object on which the program is based is called the Ugly Longhorn.
It's a really unsightly metal sculpture of a longhorn cow, the school's nickname and mascot, made by teacher Doug Eckhardt's auto shop students. Made primarily of old car parts, the longhorn sculpture is not likely to end up at the Guggenheim Museum anytime soon.
Where it will end up, however, is chained to various local businesses around town, along with a ransom notice informing the business owner of the terms and conditions under which it will be removed.
"When they contact us, they can buy the insurance, which is $10," Holly Lane, council president, said. "Let's say the first place we chain it to is Legacy Home Furnishings. They would give us $10 to move it, and then buy the insurance for another $10 to make sure it never comes back."
What the council hopes will also happen is that the businesses become engaged in a game of one-upmanship.
"If one business gives us $10, then we hope the next one will try to outdo him and give us $12," Lisa Jackson, council secretary, said.
The business that decides to play along can then choose another business as the next victim of the Ugly Longhorn perhaps, Lane suggests with a just the hint of a twinkle in her eyes, a rival business.
Of course a business might decide not to play along. A business might, for example, decide it likes the sculpture chained outside and refuse to pay to have it moved.
That's just fine, according to Lane.
"We will be happy to sell it to them for a large sum of money," she said.
You can see how lucrative this game could quickly become, a sentiment echoed by Jackson when asked how much the council hopes to raise through this endeavor.
"Lots of money," she said as visions of dollar signs danced in her head.
Business owners will be victimized between now and mid-October, at which time the Ugly Longhorn becomes the grand prize in a battle of wits between the PHS classes a game you could call grand larceny, or, at the very least, petty piracy.
"The Friday before homecoming week, Mr. Eckhardt and Ms. Van Zile (who co-sponsor the student council at PHS), will hide it somewhere. The class that finds it will then be fair game for the other classes," Lane said. "The only rules are that the Ugly Longhorn must stay within Payson town limits, and it must be displayed visually by the class in possession."
Whichever class has possession of the sculpture on homecoming day will be able to triumphantly display it on its parade float.
Fortunately, all the money raised will be used for good causes.
"It will be split between the hardship fund (where we help kids in our school who need it for things like surgery) and student government," Lane said.
The council says the whole idea behind the Ugly Longhorn is to get the business community more involved with the high school.
"We're trying to start a new tradition," Jackson said.
When asked point blank if the Ugly Longhorn fund-raiser doesn't border on extortion and blackmail, Lane was perfectly honest.
"Oh yeah, definitely," she said.