Growing up, my favorite holiday was Halloween. For kids there’s no pressure, since even the lamest costume will score you that sweet, sweet sugar. Just run, scream, check out the other little monsters, and be glad you’re still ignorant of Type II diabetes.
I knew we’d wussified ourselves since then, but it’s really this bad?
Sure, adults were scared back then. Back in Auburn, Kentucky, during the seventies.
Scared of us kids!
The town had one traffic light and its nearly two thousand citizens were scattered over half the county. So, on Spooky Night, Auburn usually imported cops from teeming metropoli like Russellville and Bowling Green.
The instigating factor was the near-legendary…prank?…when a round bail of hay (2,000 pound-ish) was set on fire and released down Main Street. There’s a slight downhill slant, enough to let a rolling object pick up a little speed, and that bad boy had no intention of going straight. So the question was…would it veer left, toward the pool hall?
Or right…into the gas station?
…it went left.
So, no biggie. Right? Authorities disagreed. Fascists.
Seriously, Auburn was a crazy place on All Hallow’s Eve. Stunts like that are hard to match, even without beefed-up cop patrols. So if you were gonna prank, you pranked hard. There was no T.P.ing. It was mega-T.P. or nothing. You either didn’t bother…or you blotted out the landscape. A winter wonderland of tissue. Diarrhetic squirrels singing “Hallelujah!”
A friend of my older brother got into a spot one Halloween. Long story short: furious farmer, shotgun, rock salt. Didn’t shoot Danny, but he did shoot Danny’s car on the driver’s side door with Danny sitting there. Maybe 21st Century auto tech has solved corrosion problems, but in that distant past it resulted in Danny having one hilarious looking car.
I don’t have all the details, but…trust me…Danny had it coming.
Now, I wasn’t so much a prankster then. We had a few Auburn stunts. But the things my little brother and I did that warranted infanticide were in Thomasville, Alabama. If anyone wants a tale next Halloween, just ask. I’ll check the statutes of limitations and get back to you.
But. But. Thumb-sucking trick-or-treaters in Auburn had power. You’d march up to a front door, pound on it, look that homesteader in the eye and say “trick or treat!” with confidence.
If you wanted to see them blanch you’d say “trick or treat”. Not that they feared you little urchins, so much…they feared your older brothers. Or even that you were a born loser with nowhere else to go, nothing else to do…and a long memory.
Back then, in Auburn, Halloween was when children got their first taste of power. Of freedom.
And today’s cringing, paranoid, fluffy holiday is an improvement? Okay, sure. And Grimm’s Fairy Tales are utterly inappropriate for children. What kind of metrosexuals will they make as adults if you don’t let them toughen up as children?
You don’t think there were “bad candy” stories back then? Bad candy stories were the Grimm’s Fairy Tales of Auburn. But they were less about poison, more about razor blades. That was the scary one. Probably because most kids have never tasted arsenic, whereas everybody has taken a bad popcorn shard unexpectedly.
I’m so sad at the moment. Sad for me, that I wasn’t better and that I wasn’t more monstrous. Sad for today’s parents who, apparently, never ran with the Wild Things or scampered ‘neath Bradbury’s Halloween Tree. Or have they forgotten?
How could they?
I’m crying. I’m crying as I type this. For these poor, over-protected children of today. It’s not good for them. I think I’m crying for them.
I might be crying for myself.