This, That and Other Stuff


Trick or Treat

Bob Neuman

For those having lived in the Midwest, the month of October has two significant events. Beautiful colors appear as the leaves of the maple, walnut, oak, sycamore and other trees prepare for winter. It is said that, long ago, a glacier began a slow travel at the top of what is now Indiana. It stopped near the middle of the state, where Indianapolis is, leaving behind a flat and barren land.

The southern half of Indiana was left with its rolling hills and is Mecca for the thousands of visitors who arrive to view lovely colors of the leaves and to breathe cool, clear air. Nashville in Brown County is the focal point.

Midwest October is also the last hurrah before November introduces the beginning of what can be brutal winter weather.

The origin of Halloween goes back 2000 years. The ancient Pagan festival was celebrated by Celtic people who believed the dead could walk among and visit with the living. The Celts wore ghoulish costumes so the spirits would not mistake them for their own. Others offered sweets to appease the spirits.

Later, the British would carry hollowed-out turnip lanterns to ward off the spirits. Later, pumpkins replaced the turnips.

Today, six billion dollars are spent on Halloween candy and costumes. It is one of the most popular holidays.

As a kid in the 1930s and ‘40s, Halloween was a big deal. The adults partied in costumes around candle-lit pumpkins. They played games and attempted to frighten each other. Apple bobbing was a favorite.

Little tykes would knock on doors to collect their candy, but those a bit older played tricks that consisted of throwing gravel or corn onto porches hoping the noise would frighten the inhabitants.

A blazing porch light indicated willing occupants. My wife became irritated when the urchins arrived too late or when they were too old by her standard. I recall her chastising a tricker who appeared too late and was too old to suit her. Finally, the culprit arose from kneeling and removed the mask. Ann then recognized her best lady friend who had succeeded in the tricking attempt.

A young cousin living nearby had a very different trick. Creeping upon the porch, he quietly and thoroughly licked the window pane. Can you visualize it the next day?

In those days, in every backyard stood a small building with a slanted tin roof known as the outhouse. Besides the necessity reason for its being there, it was a place where one could doze, read and contemplate the important things of the world.

On Halloween, in the dark it was great fun to actually tip over a poorly-anchored outhouse. Gathering my chums, I suggested it would be great larks to tackle the job. The selected target happened to be in my own yard. Common sense should have warned me that the following days would be bad news. With old-reliable flat on the ground, usage was a genuine problem. But, “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead.” With several chums and determined pushing, over it went. I am not certain I knew that my ancient grandfather was in the thing.

Ah, yes, those were indeed the good old days.