Story – Halloween Hijinks

I was riding home this morning with the family from a woodcarver’s craft show.  It was fun and the father-in-law had a great time.  We were driving down a street and as we were stopped at a light, I noticed several kids and something undefinable about them said “Trick or Treaters.”  I pointed this out and we finally decided, that although they weren’t holding bags or buckets of candy, it did look as though they were in costume.  Their costumes were pretty minimal.  Three girls simply wore regular clothes and those new hats that look like animal heads with long swatches of cloth to mimic the animal’s legs.  One boy was dressed to look like the pilot of an X-wing fighter from Star Wars.  As we pulled away, we saw a few more kids and parents walking across the street coming from the same direction.  Shortly, we drove past a school and saw that the school had sponsored a Halloween event.

I got to thinking about the fun I’d had at Halloween with my brother and sister.  A lot of images floated back at me.  The first trick or treat session I ever did was in South Carolina.  My dad was a Marine, so we lived on base.  It was the early sixties and everyone was safe so kids could go knocking door to door and not worry.  I didn’t know what was going on.  I was just carrying a paper sack and yelling along with the other kids and once in a while someone would throw candy in my bag.  My sister was supposed to keep an eye on me.  Suddenly, one of the kids in our crowd found a piece of candy on the ground.  Then another kids found more.  We discovered a hole in my paper sack so my candy was spilling out.  Even though I didn’t know what was going on, I cried because I was losing all my candy, but I didn’t want to go home to get a new sack because then I’d miss all the fun.  Solomon never had a bigger dilemma!

Another Halloween memory was a few years later.  We lived in upper-state New York, in a small town called Glens Falls.  My sister had decided she was too old to go out for tricks or treats, but my younger brother and I were old enough to go out with friends and have a great time.  We had our store-bought costumes with the plastic masks.  I have no idea what we went as, but I do remember Mom made us wear our jackets over the costume because it was too cold.  We thought that was ridiculous since no one could see our costumes.  However, after being outside with the crowd for about a half-hour, I noticed something strange.  Looking up, I saw that it had started to snow.  The longer we stayed out, the harder it snowed.  I remember being totally amazed that it was snowing on Halloween.

Once we moved to Arizona, the Halloween hijinks started in earnest.  We were older, and not that interested in begging for candy anymore.  We were more interested in scaring the little kids.  Every year, my brother would get an old pair of jeans and an old shirt.  He’d stuff them with newspapers and then jam the legs of the jeans into a pair of work boots.  He’d take a Styrofoam head and paint it up and use an old wig he’d found somewhere to make it look “natural”.  Sometimes he’d put a hat on it and other times he wouldn’t.  Then he’d take a knife and jam it into the “heart” of the dummy and spread ketchup everywhere he thought it should be.  The dummy would sit in a chair on the front porch with a bowl of candy in its lap that was to go to the kids who came to the house.  The first year, the dummy sat silent and immobile and the kids all thought it was creepy.  Each year, my brother would add refinements.  One year he added movement by tying string to its arms.  My brother would sit off to the side and tell kids to help themselves.  As they reached for the bowl, he’d pull the strings and move the arms, and terrify the little kids.  He eventually added sound, special lighting, until finally no one would walk up to the house.  Whatever candy my mom bought would be kept for the family.

Mom realized early on that there was a bonanza in that.  She’d buy what we called “junk candy”, the kind no one liked and had no flavor except just sweet.  She’d also buy the “good stuff”, chocolate and the kinds everyone in the family liked.  She’d put out the junk candy for the kids who dared to get past my brother’s dead body.  Once Halloween night was over, all that was left was the good stuff which she’d eat with no guilt feelings at all.  She also started soaping the neighbor’s windows about this time, but that’s not something we talk about.

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