Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Halloween in Harrold | TSLN.com
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Prairie Memories by Gary Heintz: Halloween in Harrold

Halloween in Harrold was an exciting, scary time when I was eight years old. To go out in the dark October night, trying to see through the eyeholes of my plastic mask was a courageous act, even when marching down the suddenly mysterious streets with my best friends.

Homemade popcorn balls from Mrs. Hansen, a can of pop and a candy bar from Kenny Gregg usually meant your trick or treating had been successful. We soon learned where the best chocolate chip cookies and homemade fudge was made, and hit those houses early to make sure their supply hadn’t been exhausted by other local ghost and goblins.

The older kids were in charge of the tricking for the most part, dragging oil drums and flatbed trailers from the county shop out into the street, along with any benches and swing sets that weren’t tied down. An occasional outhouse was turned over and burning barrels cluttered the alleys. The tricking was considered a rite of passage, and usually done in good-natured fun. Part of the fun was the punishment for those tricks. The high school students got to leave school the following morning to go around town and clean up their handiwork.

There was always one piece of handiwork no one would take blame for and it usually “hung around” for quite some time. There were several teens who would climb to the top of the water tower and hang a five gallon bucket from the bottom of the tank, so it would clang against the tower when the wind blew, echoing all over town. It was funny at first, but soon became a real nuisance. The city cop would finally corner the boys and take them over to the park and stand at the bottom of the tower until the bucket was cut down.

One trick that wasn’t so harmless and turned out to be quite scary and dangerous was the night teens rolled a railroad grain car across the street, to block traffic. The prank backfired when they realized many cars’ headlight beams went below the belly of the train car, and several people almost ran into the train, sliding to a stop just short of going under the rail car.

We had a third grade teacher that went the extra mile and had a Halloween party for her class the night before Halloween. I lived close to the school, and was the first student to arrive, wearing my Casper the Friendly Ghost costume. The teacher was impressed with the costume and she wanted to play a prank on the rest of the class by having me hide in the storage closet until the party was started, and then at her cue, I would jump out a scare everyone. So in the closet I went. She kept cautioning me to stay quiet so I wouldn’t spoil the surprise. I soon was getting hot and sweat was beading up on my nose, causing me to want to scratch in the worst way. The kids started trickling in and pretty soon they were playing games, dunking for apples and having a great time. I was still in the closet. Surely my teacher must be ready for me to jump out and scare the class at any moment! I was so excited, until I saw the class putting their coats on and going out the door. After they were all gone and the teacher was cleaning up the classroom, I opened the storage door and asked, “Can I come out now?” She was so startled, she spilled lemonade all over her desk. She was so sorry and ashamed that she had forgotten about me being in the closet, but not nearly as sorry as I was. I had looked forward to dunking for apples.


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