Sunday, October 19, 2008


With each fall comes another Halloween. A time of cold evenings, “frost on the pumpkin” and “fodder in the shock.” We don’t see many fields of shocked corn anymore. And seldom see a lot of giant pumpkins growing in farmers’ fields. Or small “pie-pumpkins” growing in gardens. But, come Halloween,” we will see plenty of jack-o’-lanterns, both real and artificial, decorating homes and yards.

As darkness falls, groups of children will be out and about, busy with their trick-or-treating. I grew up in a rural area, and if there was such an activity back then, I never heard of it. We did hear of the tricks perpetrated by some of the members of the age group we now refer to as “teenagers.” And of some daring late night stunts pulled by a few of the more adventuresome adults.

A dozen years ago I was invited to join two grandsons and their parents in a Halloween parade in Dubuque. Yes, I put on a mask and walked with the rest of the ghosts, witches and goblins. I’ve forgotten many of the details, but not the evening. We had a great time. We started at Jackson Park and paraded down Main, and eventually wound up down by the Town Clock Plaza. I was amazed at the costumes. Some were simple, but others represented much imagination and a good deal of hard work. It was a great evening. Wonderful to be a part of such a large group of people who were all happy and having a good time.

This time of year, many people who drive Highway 18, just north of Patch Grove, enjoy a nifty Halloween display near the River Ridge School, at the junction with County Highway P. “Scarecrow Ridge” is a project of the third-grade students there, and consists of a score of colorful figures, all dressed up in their raggedy Halloween best.

I’m told that each fall the students of one of Pete Drone’s High School Ag classes drive a row of steel fence stakes to support the scarecrows. And Langmeier Lumber generously furnishes material for crossbars. Then the third-graders (with some help from their parents) create the scarecrows, dressing them in discarded clothing they’ve brought from home.

On a windy day the jolly, straw-stuffed characters almost appear to be waving at passers-by. After three years, we natives still enjoy the sight. Quite a number of strangers driving by, slow down to get a better look, and more than a few pull off and stop. It is not uncommon to see folks getting out their cameras and taking pictures of Scarecrow Ridge.


One more year gone by, one
More Halloween evening,
With frost on the pumpkin,
Witches riding on brooms.

An evening of darkness,
Of spooks, ghosts, and goblins.
Skeletons, grim and white
Climbing out of their tombs.

This will be a big night
For young trick-or-treaters,
In large and in small groups
They will take to the streets.

My young friends will be there
In various costumes
Some with colorful masks,
Some as ghosts in white sheets

They'll have such a good time
That I may just join them.
You could see me out there
Before the evening's done.

I, too, may wind up with
A sack full of candy.
Why should only the young
Ones have all of the fun?

I think I'll go this year
Disguised as an old man.
I'll put on a face that's
Marked and lined by the years,

I'll be the one whose mask
Wears a weak, faint, forced smile-
A clown's face that mirrors
Cares and worries and fears.

Tonight, the role I play
Will leave no one guessing,
I'll be easy to read
As a well-written page

I'll not appear wealthy,
Tonight I'll be wearing
Cheap, patched, shabby clothing
Weathered and worn by age.

As the years come and go,
We must move on with them,
Always paying our fare-
The costly toll of time.

I'll go trick-or-treating
Disguised as an old man.
This year's costume and mask
Will not cost me a dime.

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