When kids live in the country, such as I did, the job of getting from house to house on Halloween requires a parent and a vehicle. There’s a lot to be said for knowing the folks you visit on Halloween night, and in sharing special memories with family, friends and neighbours.
I remember my brother and me making the seven-mile trek to a neighbour’s farm each year. Our parents waited in the truck as we rustled noisily up the walk wearing plastic costumes, our hot breath escaping through ill-fitting masks. Other times we tripped over bed sheets that trailed along behind us as we struggled to see out of hastily cut eye holes.
One year my massive sheet/costume was held in place with dad’s Western belt. Honestly! Would any self-respecting ghost be caught dead (okay, bad example) cinching itself together with a brown leather strap and the head of a Charolais bull?
But I digress. The lady of this house always baked up oatmeal cookies sandwiched together with date filling and decorated with orange icing to resemble pumpkins. I hate date filling. Nevertheless, the warm, homey atmosphere flooding out to greet us at the door was wonderful, and we knew she had made them especially for us and other neighbour kids. I cherish those memories.
Jumping ahead a few decades, I can tell you I always dress up in some outlandish getup for my job as a school EA. Two years ago, I donned a witches’ garb (which you may or may not think appropriate depending on whether or not you’re my ex-husband).
I had worn the flowing black robes and large peaked hat all day and saw no reason to remove them as I drove kids home in the bus after school. Exiting town, we eventually lumbered up to speed. Nothing is ever done too quickly in a bus. After attaining the modest speed of 75k, we began advancing upon an old half-ton truck meandering along the road in front of us, an elderly man slouched behind the wheel; one arm slung out the window as he trundled through the countryside in no particular hurry.
While I am, for the most part, a patient person, I couldn’t follow this fellow at the turtle pace of 30k for long. Taking a moment to secure my trusty headpiece and ensure the road ahead was clear, I accelerated and pulled out to pass. As we drew nigh, the man glanced at me through the long windows of the school bus door.
First, his face registered bored indifference and then, after an exaggerated double take, shock and alarm. I turned, and nodded courteously as we motored briskly past in a cloud of dust, but slack jawed, eyes bulging, the man gaped out the window in response. His eyes flitted to the back of the bus looking, no doubt, for the innocent children who were riding helplessly off to their doom. I’s sure he was unaware it was Halloween. What a hair-raising tale he’d later tell.
“I was in town for cultivator shovels today, Mabel, and you’ll never believe what I saw. A WITCH! I tell you; it was an honest to goodness witch, with the hat and everything. And get this—she was driving a school bus—full of little kids!”
Across our land children will once again enjoy this thrilling day. Kids know a good thing when they see it. A million sticky fingers can’t be wrong. Happy Halloween.
Helen lives on the family farm near Marshall, Saskatchewan where she is author, columnist and works in education. To contact her, or learn more about her humour or fantasy books, go to myprairiewool.com or write Box 55, Marshall, SK. S0M1R0