Witches, goblins and ghosts — oh my

In the field across the road, the corn stalks are flattened and tattered. The gorgeous trees across the street are dressed in leaves of scarlet, and out yard is adrift in golden leaves. All around town the yards and porches are festive with pumpkins and many colored mums. Just look at all of those frightful skeletons, thank goodness some of the scarecrows look happy to be among those creepy looking creatures. This must be fall – my favorite time of the year.

This morning, the air was crisp and the leaves crackled as the house dog and I went for a walk. As we walked along all the signs of the season came to mind with the memories of autumns past and I thought of all that had changed over the years. What a difference the corn harvest was. Long ago, as I walked down the lane with my trusty guardian bull dog to the school bus, I could hear the thwack of ears of corn hitting the wagon as Dad worked across the field picking the corn by hand.The wind nipped at my nose and my fingers tingled already even with my mittens and I thought of how cold Dad’s hands must be. Now days, the huge machines churn through the corn gobbling the ears and spitting shelled corn into wagons or semis finishing a large field in a short time. Dad would trudge through the fields for three or four days depending on the acres of the year. What a sight it would be for him to see the harvesting taking place now.

I must say the harvest wasn’t uppermost in my mind in my youth. I loved the pumpkins and the apples we picked which meant pumpkin pies and crisp tart apples to eat along with a bowl of popcorn in the evenings. We grew the popcorn and when it was ready to pop, I would put the ears in a flour sack and bank it on the porch floor to knock the kernels off. That was OK, but what I really longed to do in the fall was to go “trick or treating: in town with my town friends. Did I mention the farm was a busy place and Dad didn’t think time allowed a trip seven miles into town and then to hang around while I ran around with Marilyn Mullins, LaDonna Riley, Gwen Klaver and Charlotte Plager filling a sack with all kinds of treats. Believe it or not (so I was told) no one thought about none of the treats being wrapped up or looking for dangerous items inside a popcorn ball. I never got to do any trick or treating, only imaged from friends what a wonderful thing it was.

Fast forwarding to my high school days, specifically my junior year. Thoughts of trick or treating were distant memories and in 1950, some of my friends were thinking of more exciting things like going to Webster City to see the absolutely scariest movie. I was told you better go to the rest room before you went to the movie. It was “Frankenstein.” You know, half the time I had to cover my eyes. It would be a real “ho-hum” for kiddos now, but this was 1950, you see. The guys were notably uninterested as they had scarier things in mind we girls found out later.

We left before the movie’s end and then headed east and eventually north on gravel roads near Blairsburg. In those days, country schools were still standing and used for meetings and voting, etc. Where there was a school, of course, there were outhouses. I had heard of people who did dastardly deeds such as tipping these little houses over even when the schools were still being used, but I never thought I would be one of those people. By the time we got to our destination, we girls were convinced that everyone should have this experience at least once. Since we had gone to the movies and I think to Brown’s Cafe for Cokes, we thought it would be late enough that the old guys who lived in the school house area and took care of the property would be fast asleep. Half a moon gave a little light and everything was quiet – not even a mouse in sight. The six of us crouched down as we crept across the school yard to our target. Just as we tried to give the little house the “old heave ho,” car lights came on and all this yelling and honking was going on. Someone yelled “Run.” I’m not sure my feet hit the ground but we all got to the car, piled in and took off. Three of us girls were on the back seat floor. I’m trying to recall why I thought it would be such fun to go out that night. The guys in the car followed us as we careened down gravel roads. Finally, the car turned off and we were safe. It was then that the guy driving discovered he had lost a shoe in the school yard and it was a new pair so we had to go back and find it. We hadn’t heard of “Law and Order” so it wasn’t because we thought the police would find the shoe and trace it back to the criminal. It was a new shoe and when the owner had to explain why he was short a shoe and his folks told our folks what we had been up to – it didn’t bode well for any of us.

Someone came up with a brilliant idea. We would go back to Brown’s and have something to keep our strength up and hang around for awhile. The old geezers would never expect us to return to the scene of the crime. They would be too tired to stay up, anyway and would go home to bed.

We weren’t nearly as carefree the second time around, but how bad could it be? We would find the shoe and we would push the outhouse over just to show those guys we could and then we would get on home. That last part sounded good to me.

We headed back to retrieve the shoe once we were sure we were alone. We got the shoe and should have gone while the going was good, but of course, we didn’t. So, same song, second verse – we are ready to do away with the little house and the lights come on. We hit the car in record time. All shoes were on, but if we thought we were scared the first time, we were terrified now because the old geezers were firing guns. Much later, I figured they weren’t firing at the car, but at the time we didn’t know that.

I didn’t know where the jail in Webster City was, but I was thinking if I live through this and end up in jail, I could just picture my dad coming towards the cell. From the look on his face, I wondered if it would be better if I just got it over with now. I’m still here, so obviously, the shooters finally let us alone. I didn’t care if someone had lost both shoes and their pants, my friend – who was staying over with me – and I were going home. And we did.

After that night, I was never interested in Halloween so much. After being chased by guys with guns, Frankenstein, witches, goblins and ghosts were no contest.

Have a safe Halloween everyone.