Halloween in the Country

halloween-sillouetteGrowing up on a farm had its drawbacks, especially at Halloween time.  We had few neighbors, and none of them seemed to have children.  Mrs. Wolff was on the north, a widow who rented her side apartment to college boys from Iran.  Mrs. Wolff always gave me cool Iranian stamps from their letters. The Wiebe’s were across the street from her.  They were Mennonite, and not inclined toward Mormons.  They had older kids who went to Immanuel High, the Mennonite high school.  Our farm came next, then Grandma’s.

The Stockdale’s driveway was across from Grandma’s.  Mrs. Stockdale was a nurse.  I’m not sure what Mr. Stockdale did.  He went around without a shirt on and had long stringy hair, dyed black.   They weren’t farmers, but they rented the house from the Wiebe’s and had a big barn and lots of animals.  Mr. Stockdale got sick animals from auctions and brought them home to try to nurse them back to health and then  resell or butcher them.  Many died and were thrown out in the back fields where they lay in Halloween grotesqueness, bloated and covered with flies.  We rode our motorcycles out there and always came across rotting unburied sheep, goats, or calves.  It was frightening.  The Stockdales adopted 2 retarded boys, Johnny and Bobby.  They were about our age.  They were pretty dirty and unkempt and I don’t remember them going to school.  The whole farm was a bit scary with the pigs and cows and chickens underfoot, and sick animals and the boys.

South of Grandma’s house was where the Reimers lived, a quiet older Mennonite couple, who later moved to town and sold their house to Leo Balakian, a man who sold fertilizers and had no weeds in his orchards.

That was about it for neighbors within walking distance.  We lived 3 miles from town on Road 52.  Our only hope for any kind of candy at Halloween was to go where the candy was–in town.  So we dressed in our homemade costumes and took our orange pumpkin buckets and went to town, where Mom or Dad would drop us at one end of a street and pick us up at the other end.  We went to neighborhoods we knew to be safe, places where our school friends lived.

I remember once a lady was not very nice to us at the door when we said “trick-or-treat.”  I felt a bit mad at her and on the way down the sidewalk, I kicked her gravel rocks onto the sidewalk.  I’ve never forgotten that I returned an unkindness with the same.  I shouldn’t have done it.

When we got home from our trip to town, we’d line up our round plastic pumpkin buckets on the fireplace hearth before examining the contents.  Then we rationed our candies for as long as we could, hiding them in our rooms until much of the candy went stale.

I don’t remember many of the costumes we came up with–typical things like ghosts and hobos and gypsies.  My most creative costume was a robot that I made out of cardboard boxes for my head and body.  I pained gages on the front and cut arm holes in the sides.  I painted the whole thing silver and put antenna on the top.  We had a Ward Halloween party that year at church and I got to wear it and show off my creativity.

Other years we had Mutual parties at our house which included hay rides with the tractor pulling vineyard wagons filled with hay.  Paul remembers one year the Teacher’s Quorum made a witch out of Brother Charters’ milk can.  It had a face with a witch’s nose made out of a sponge.  The wart on the nose was the red button you pushed to make the green hot chocolate come out the nostril.  They loved making it.   I remember hot chili and bobbing for apples and fun games set up in our emptied-out garage.

As we got older and trick-or-treating no longer appealed to us, Mom tried to introduce us to finer Halloween activities like pulling taffy or making caramel apples.  Dad never liked Halloween much and when he was Bishop he put a stop to Spook Alleys at the Church, which had been quite popular for the youth until that time.  He didn’t feel that was the type of activity to be held in a church.

I don’t think anyone ever came trick-or-treating at our house.  We went to Grandma’s and she usually gave us a little plastic bag with a cookie and a few candies in it, tied with a twisty tie.  We didn’t go to the other neighbors, they didn’t expect us.

Mom always liked Halloween and decorating for it.  She even chose Halloween as her day to die.  She had all her decorations out, and bags of treats for each grandchild ready and waiting.  Then she spooked us all by making an unexpected departure.  I think she went out with a smile.


About Ann Laemmlen Lewis

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