Kent Conwell: A Halloween story

Published 3:12 pm Saturday, October 30, 2010

I don’t know how many of you are like me, but I still get a big kick out of Halloween. Unfortunately, over the past few years, only a handful of youngsters have come by.

Once or twice, none showed up.

My wife said it was my fault because of the recording.

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Oh, I didn’t tell you about the recording. It’s nothing really, just an old 33 1/3 record of Halloween sounds, wolves, owls, vampires — you get the idea. I’d put out a speaker in the shadows of the front porch, and when trick or treaters showed up, I’d turn it on.

Talk about running and screaming. I should have felt bad, but I didn’t.

Today, most little goblins attend church — or neighborhood — sponsored activities. I feel kind of sorry for the little ones who will never experience a full moon shining down on a deserted lane winding through the woods.

When the girls were in elementary, they hosted a Halloween slumber party for six or seven friends.

We roasted wieners and marshmallows, told ghost stories, and then unknown to my wife, I touched off the recording. It was set on the wolf howls.

Fifteen seconds later, I knew I’d make a mistake for everyone of those girls were clinging to Gayle and me like Velcro. We had to pry them off.

Finally, after they calmed down some, they decided they wanted to go down Sarah Jane Road and see the hanging tree.

The isolated road is as gloomy and scary as the spooky road old Ichabod Crane traveled the night he confronted the Headless Horseman. A perfect road for the Living Dead — and highly impressionable young girls.

We only had to drive about half a mile, so I loaded the girls in the back of the pickup and we headed out.

I pointed out the tree and suggested they get out an look at it.

They did not budge. No way they were going to approach that tree.

I knew how they felt. One Halloween on my grandmother’s farm, an uncle told my cousin, Ed, and me that every Halloween, the ghost of an old farmer that had been caught in a combine and chopped to pieces came back looking for his missing hand.

We laughed the story off.

That night, Ed and I trudged down the lane to trick or treat the only neighbor. Their boys accompanied us back to my grandparents so we could trick or treat them. Before we left, we told our friends about the farmer’s ghost. They snickered at us.

Now, you’ve got to get the picture here. The full moon was straight overhead. On either side of the lane were pastures dotted with mesquite, and I promise you, in the dark, the twisted mesquite limbs took on mighty scary shapes in the eyes of spooky ten and eleven year old boys.

And the fact we were talking about ghosts and werewolves and such didn’t help. Our frightened eyes made every shadow into Dracula or the Frankenstein monster.

And then we saw it. In the pasture, a floating white object. The wind seemed to be carrying it toward us, and then a mournful, whining moan came through the mesquite.

We set a world-record time getting back to the house. It took ten minutes to stammer out what happened. One uncle grunted. “Yep, that was old Burl. How long’s it been now, fifty years since he got cut all to pieces. He’s still looking for his missing hand.”

We listened to him with our eyes bugged out like a stepped-on toad frog’s.

And I don’t have to tell you how big they got when my grandfather said, “Well, Kent, it’s getting late. You and Ed walk your young friends back home, and then hurry back.”

Wild horses couldn’t have pulled us from that house.

One of my uncles had to take our friends back home.

And they couldn’t get us outside the next day.

Years later, we learned the whole family had played a big joke on Ed and me. It was my Uncle Bud, Ed’s daddy, who played Burl in a sheet.

I tell you this, folks, those are memories I’ll never forget. And that will probably never come again.