Darkest Halloween …
The darkest Halloween night I can remember was when we lived in Tacoma, Washington. We lived in the south end of Tacoma where a lot of the neighborhoods were left from days gone by, existing much the same as they were before the town became filled with suburbs and shopping centers.
Our home was on property that was once someone’s farm. A lot of outbuildings were still usable. There was a henhouse with a chicken yard fenced in with chicken wire, a garage far too narrow for more modern cars
which Dad turned into a workshop, a woodshed, a brooder house which Dad turned into a shelter shed for our sheep, goat, geese and ducks at night, a pig pen with its own shed, and a very old outhouse. The house
was an old farmhouse with a large root cellar underneath. All the buildings were very old, but in really good condition. Dad bought the property because he was a farmer.
The days of working on large farms were too much for Mom and Dad, so they settled on this much smaller farm. It was smaller than what we were used to, but large enough for just the animals and gardens that would provide food for our large family.
The house stood up on a hill with all the outbuildings scattered around below. Behind the house was a large empty field that used to be an apple orchard. Beyond that was a huge Dogwood tree growing at the edge of a swamp that was quite large and dangerous. Us kids did play in the swamp, but never went in too far.
Now, during the day this little farm was heaven for us kids. It was the kind of place people dreamed of growing up on. We had everything there a kid could possibly want to be around. There were only about twelve other homes in this little valley that lingered from the past. All the homes were pretty far apart, so it seemed like we were still out in the country farm lands. It was dark at night though, and the darkest Halloween night ever.
Like I said, during the day it was a lot of fun for kids. At night it was a whole ‘nother story. There was only one street light about two blocks away from us, so the nights were pretty dark and often scary for kids. Our first Halloween there was terror for us, except for my eldest brother who feared nothing. Jacob was a daredevil. The only kid in the whole valley who went deep into the swamp, built camps in there that no one could find, climbed the highest trees and was always in some kind of mischief.
Darkest Halloween Ever ~
That Halloween, Mom and Dad said us four older kids could go out trick-or-treating, but only to the houses in our community. It was the darkest Halloween night they had ever seen, Dad said. We were not to go into the swamp, the woods or over the hill where recluses lived in old cabins hidden in dense brush and trees. Now, if Jacob was told something like that, you can bet your boots he was going to ignore those warnings. As the oldest he was to lead us and keep us safe on this darkest Halloween. My sister Verna, our other brother, Leon and then me faithfully followed Jacob wherever he took us. Besides, it was too dark to leave the group and go home, we would get lost for sure. So follow Jacob we did holding our candy bag in one hand and someone’s hand in the other. We knew when Jacob turned up the hill once we were out of sight of our house that we were heading for trouble. He followed the old narrow road that went around the hill above us and it was so dark we could not see a thing. But, Jacob knew his way and took us to the other side of the hill where the recluses lived.
The first house we went to was at the end of a long dirt road behind a lot of overgrown brush. It was pretty spooky. When Jacob knocked on the door of the cabin there was no answer and no light on inside that we could see. Some dogs out back started barking. We were shaking and about to pass out from fear when an old man came from behind the house and yelled, “You kids get outta here afore I turn my dogs loose!” We ran as fast as we could trying to keep up with a laughing Jacob. Fortunately my sister had her hand hooked onto Jacob’s belt and we held on to her for dear life.
The next house was pretty much the same. Scared the bejeeses right out of us. At the third house was an old woman who was nice and gave us some apples. Then Jacob lead us up a path that would take us back to our side of the hill. Only he did not take the road this time. He went up the back way that would head to the swamp. Good grief I will never forget that when he told my sister, brother and I to wait at the Dogwood tree while he went into the swamp to get some goodies he had hidden in one of his camps. We sat huddled together under that tree in pitch blackness. I kept my eyes closed the whole time. I figured if my eyes were closed and I could see no boogie man I would be okay, but it didn’t matter, I could not see even with my eyes open. It seemed Jacob was gone an awful long time. He finally came back with a bag full of the big candy bars we could never afford. We each got two and sat there eating them. He had more than likely bought them with money he saved up from lawn mowing jobs.
Then we went around to all the houses in the little valley and got a lot of candies. Jacob had brought torn up sheets in his pillow case candy bag and made us put them on as ghost costumes so we could go back to the same houses and trick-or-treat again. No one recognized us, so we all got double the amount of candies.
Now, Jacob was not yet finished with getting us scared. He lead us back to the dogwood tree so we could sit and eat some candies there. We were getting so cold and scared we hardly ate anything. Then we heard some weird noises in the swamp and heard something coming towards us. Whatever it was, it was growling deep and crashing through the brush. Even Jacob got spooked now, grabbed his bag and got up to run. We tried to follow him, but he headed across the empty field that was full of holes and dead limbs from old apple trees. To give Jacob some credit, every time one of us fell and screamed he ran back to help us up. I had never seen Jacob scared before so it made me feel even more scared.
We were all tripping then running so fast that all four of us hit the fence behind our house at the same time. We did not even see it because it was so dark, the darkest Halloween ever. It was a wonder we were not knocked out we hit it so hard. We all clambered over and ran like crazy to our house. Thankfully Mom had left the back porch light on and we all crashed through the kitchen door at once, scaring the heck out of Mom and the little ones with our tattered sheets hanging from us. We all collapsed in a pile on the floor.
Jacob had brought us through that darkest Halloween night okay because he had the uncanny ability to see out there in the dark and knew every inch of land around. But, Dad was even more uncanny and it wasn’t long before he, too, came busting through the door, growling at us like a bear. We all shrank back when he said, “That’s what you get when you don’t do as you were told. I followed you every step of the way out there till I found the right time to scare the heck out of you! Now you all get to bed fast before I tan your hides!” We took off up the stairs like scared rabbits.
Well, that was our darkest Halloween night for sure, and most painful. We all had cuts, scratches and bruises from falling so often in the field and hitting that darn fence. After we were settled in bed we could hear Dad laughing as he related the whole story to Mom.
© 2016 Phyllis Doyle Burns
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