Those of you that read this regular series know that I am from Hackett, Arkansas, just a mile or so from the Oklahoma border, and just about 10 miles south of the Arkansas River. It was a rural sort of place that did not particularly appreciate education, and just zoom onto my previous posts to understand a bit about it.
As a kid, Halloween was one of my favorite birthdays. I think that around four or five I really came to like it, and by grade school was wild about it. I still remember the name and the chorus of a poem in my second grade civics book. It was called “Black and Gold” and the part that I remember
Black and gold, black and gold, and nothing in between,
When the world turns black and gold, you know it’s Halloween
When was really small my mum and grandmum would take me trick or treating, but by the time I was six or so I was free to go by myself, but usually my cousin Mike and/or my friend Rex would go together. You have to consider both the time and the culture to understand why our folks would allow us to do that.
In the early to mid 1960s things were much different. No one ever gave child abduction a second thought. This was before the (mostly bogus) reports of children being injured or poisoned with tainted treats. And remember, Hackett at the time had a population sign of 328 at the city limit, so everyone literally knew everyone else there.
As a matter of fact, some of the home made treats were much better than the cheap Halloween candy that was often handed out to us. Several of the ladies in town were outstanding bakers, and I remember home made peanut butter cookies, brownies, and sometimes other things that did not last nearly as long as the candy did.
The reason that the home made things were mostly cookies and brownies is that they were durable enough to be wrapped in Saran wrap and not stick to it like a cupcake would. There were more kinds of cookies than peanut butter that they would give, like oatmeal and sugar cookies. Sometimes one of the ladies would make ginger bread.
We would make a circuit from my house (my cousin lived across the street from me) and head south to get candy from the Holloways and the Foleys, then turn north and then to the east because that was a primarily residential section. Then we would turn west and back to Main Street.
We would go up the east side of Main and get candy from the Lenniers, the Chandlers, my grandmum, Ms. Long, and the Farrars. Then we would take the west side of the street and get goodies from the Hunleys, the Williamses, the Davises, the Cheeks, the Porters, and the Rathbuns. I know that this does not sound like much trick or treating, but the route was around a mile and a half.
Even though we did not go to a whole lot of houses, those folks were generous! We would always come back with really big bags of goodies. There were not that many kids in town, so people were generous. But there is more to it than that. You see, the Lenniers, the my grandmum, the Hunleys, the Williamses, and the Cheeks went to the same church that my cousin and friend did, so they knew us well.
The Porters lived across the street from my grandmum, the Williamses were my cousins (and of Mike), and the Rathbuns were Mike’s grandparents! I told you that Hackett was a small town. We would all get enough candy to be full for days, and it was fun for the two or three of us to trade things with each other. Mike and Rex tended to prefer the commercial candy, so I often ended up with much more than my share of home baked goodies, that that suited me just fine, because I love quality home made things.
Besides, my grandmum’s gentleman friend (and I mean “gentleman” in the highest sense of the word) owned a candy store! I could get candy any time, but home baked goodies were harder to find (both by mum and grandmum had discovered boxed cake mixes by then, but they still made icing from butter and powdered sugar). I really liked those goodies better than any others.
I guess that I went trick or treating until I was a big kid, maybe ten or 11 years old. Around that time it became more fun to hand out candy to the little ones, and after I could drive things changed because I was developing more, mmmm, mature ideas about Halloween.
The older kids in town would sometime make mischief rather than trick or treat. I remember one year they hung a sign (NOT spray paint) on my grandmum’s gentleman friend’s ice house (yes, those were the days of block ice) that said “City Hall”! They were also known to have soaped windows of some of the stores on Main Street, and once even threw eggs at cars! The horror of it all!
As a matter of fact, I was not even aware of the concept of “papering” trees until years later. Such a use of perfectly good toilet paper would have been considered waste, and you have to remember that at the time of my early youth almost everyone over 35, give or take, years old had gone through the Great Depression. Folks just did not waste much in the days of my early youth.
I remember one Halloween that some of the high school kids took all of Mr. Law’s (the school principal) furniture from his living room and arranged it on his front porch. It was not raining, so there was no damage to the furniture, just the mystery of who did it and how when the Laws were gone for just a little while that night.
Of course, living in a rural place (think LOTS of cattle) there was always the classic Halloween prank, the burning paper bag. Once again, the hapless Mr. Law was the victim of at least one case of this. The way it goes is to get a medium sized paper bag and fill it with fresh (runny) cow manure. Then you put it in front of the front door of the victim, pour a little gasoline or lighter fluid on it, set it alight, and then knock or ring the bell and run like blazes. It is human nature to commence to stomp on a burning object on one’s front porch, and I understand that Mr. Law’s shoes were ruined.
I remember only one Halloween stunt that I pulled that was less than honorable. One time several friends and I were riding around in my Camaro on Halloween and had been hitting road signs with empty beer bottles, shooting off bottle rockets at road signs, and other beered up, stupid stuff. I guess that I was 18 or so at the time. We had stashed all of the fireworks on the deck in front of the rear window in the Camaro.
My mates talked me into stopping so that they could set off some fireworks in a random mailbox. Against my better judgment I complied, and they put them in and, laughing like maniacs, lit them and jumped into the Camaro and we sped away. In my rear view mirror I could see the mailbox open with the pressure, and knew that any mail in it would have been lost. I regretted that, and never did a Halloween prank again.
But, as Paul Harvey used to say, there is more!
Not a minute after getting underway again, someone tipped a cigarette out of the window and the wind blew it back into the car. Sure enough, it went right to the rear deck and lighted the fireworks there! I stopped the car with the intention of jerking them all out of it with the help of my friends, but they all bailed. I was left alone to try to get them out of there, but they were all involved rapidly. I ended up backing up, and just watched the rear deck of my beloved car get sort of charred.
That did it for me. At the time I was sort of interested in Eastern philosophy (and still am), and I think that the rotational of the Wheel of Karma was extremely fast for me that evening. Less than a minute after committing a terrible prank, the same thing rolled over me!
Much later, after the former Mrs. Translator and I had a family (and we took the boys out to trick or treat every year, often with costumes that the very creative and skilled spouse made herself) we started to give out treats as the boys got too mature to seek candy themselves. It got pretty elaborate.
We lived at the end of a dead end street and our house looked sort of spooky in the first place since it was a four level, sort of skinny with a very high pitched roof. At the bottom of the stairs into the main level I built a small deck, and we would stage our Halloween treats there.
We had some lights, some sound effects, and some props. The boys were part of the props, as they would dress up as creatures and jump out from behind trees as we were handing out candy. I always wore my mad scientist costume (ask me about that more in the comments if you are interested in what almost happened tonight) and she made a very good witch.
We would get pigs’ feet and ears and put them into a cauldron with dry ice, take grapes and peel them and put them into another vessel (peeled grapes are surrogates for dismembered eyes) and do different, sort of gross (staged) things every year. Our house got so popular that on the last year that we did it we ran out of treats, and we had a lot! We finally resorted to putting packs of instant oatmeal in bags because we did not have anything else!
I remember one year in particular when two teenage girls, probably 17, give or take a year, came by our place. They dressed as Goths, and I think that they probably were in reality. These girls reacted very differently to the props than anyone else. Most little ones (I am talking under six years) did not even notice them, the older children, up to 12 or so did, and were scared by the boys startling them from behind the trees, and the even older ones were grossed out by the pigs’ ears and feet, and the peeled grapes.
Not these two girls! I think that they might have had a bit of Cannabis, but that is just a thought. They were grooving on running their hands through the grapes, feeling the pigs’ ears and feet, and were in the “Oh, Wow!” frame of mind when the boys would jump in front of them from behind the trees. They finally left, but only after we gave each of them a pigs’ foot and ear! I have no idea who they were, and to my knowledge never saw them before or after that one Halloween.
Tonight I did not give out any candy. There are very few trick or treat aged kids here, and I give precious little candy to the little one to whom I am attached because she gets plenty otherwise. My neighbor tells me that this used to be a hotspot for trick or treaters, but now they go a couple of miles to the west to a very prosperous part of town and clean up on prepacked candy.
The city in which I now call home (although I am not in the city limits), Richmond, Kentucky, only allows trick or treating betwixt the hours of 6:00 and 8:00 PM on Halloween. Personally, I think that this ordinance is unconstitutional because I think that anyone has the right to knock on any door, at any time, and ask for candy. What the homeowner does is strictly up to her or him.
Well, that is it from the Bluegrass now. I hope that all of your little goblins got what they wanted.