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Back at the Ranch: Tricks, treats and decades of Halloween fun

Halloween has always been part of my life, even if my mother was morally opposed to trick-or-treating.

Halloween has always been part of my life, even if my mother was morally opposed to trick-or-treating. I still got to wear a black crepe paper witch’s hat and cape, to eat my share of the annual bag of molasses kisses, and to watch my father carve one of the pumpkins he grew into a jack-o-lantern.

It was rare that anyone came to our door looking for treats, but I do recall the tricksters who sneaked down outside of our shelterbelt, planning to let grain out of one of Father’s bins. Father heard a vehicle stop on the road and alerted my big brother, who quietly walked down the yard with a shotgun, hearing them chuckle about their plans, and when the young perpetrators got close to the bin, he fired a shot in the air. They left at top speed, with the bin totally unharmed.

As an older teenager, I finally had the opportunity to go out on Halloween, but the only trick I was part of was smearing grease on the doorknob of one of the local grain elevator, where a friend of ours was the elevator man. He was out and about on mischief of his own and may have been part of the crew that lined up a whole row of outhouses on the wooden sidewalk outside the local general store. Actually, that was pretty tame in those days, when I’ve heard of people dismantling bundle racks and reassembling them on the roof of someone’s barn, and once, somehow, hauling a vehicle up onto a roof. Soaping windows was a popular sport for kids in those days, along with tipping toilets, and I have heard rumours that someone may have mailed a chicken and a cat when post offices still had parcel slots by their doors.

A few years later, I found out that in the city, even adults had time for Halloween fun. We went to a costume party put on by the Housebuilders Association, with the sub trade workers invited, where I saw the most memorable costume ever – a couple dressed as outhouses, complete with half-moon viewing slots in the doors. Talk about imagination! It might not have been great for dancing, but they definitely turned some heads!

As a parent, I stayed home and handed out treats as our kids made the rounds in our Calgary suburb – except for the year they had to stay home, because they had not done their appointed chores. That definitely only happened once, lesson learned. One year, we were in the midst of moving from the house we had just sold to a townhouse in the neighborhood to the north, and our kids made the rounds in their original neighbourhood while I finished cleaning the empty house, then checked out their new surroundings with their pillowcases in hand, gathering so much candy that it lasted well past Christmas.

That may well have been their last opportunity to trick-and-treat, because by the following year, we were on the farm, and four years after that, we were up here on the ranch in the valley. A memorable Halloween a year or two later had us returning from a very long cattle auction to discover that one of our boys had dressed in an old black rain slicker so it covered up his head, hopped on the Shetland pony and ridden down to the neighbours as the Headless Horseman.

Then there was the year when we came home on Halloween and saw that the lights had been left on in the barn and went to turn them off, and discovered the milk cow in her stall, wearing a bareback rigging – she apparently had an opportunity to dress for the occasion as well.

I’ve never seen an actual cow in costume since then, just humans in cow costumes, and I actually went to the library story-time one year in a cat costume. Driving when you have a tail isn’t easy, believe me!

And now, my Halloween wreath is on the front door, pumpkin lights shining bright nearby and my battery-lighted jack-o-lantern right by the bowl of molasses kisses… and I just finished altering an outgrown skunk costume… just in time for Halloween!

About the Author: Vicki Brooker

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