Flatlander: Halloween Humbug | VailDaily.com

Flatlander: Halloween Humbug

Austin Richardson
Special to the DailyWeb Editor Austin Richardson is the flatlander

I’m not sure what happened. It was only a few years ago that I decided that my Halloween time had come and gone.

Don’t get me wrong, I used to love Halloween. There was a time when I couldn’t wait for All Hallow’s Eve. I was always a werewolf. It was a full-on, fully haired, full-face mask of a Bela Lugosi-esque werewolf that sold me on Halloween back in the day.

Seriously limited visibility, stifling hot breath fogging up the glasses, familiar. Dressing up in football pads with a werewolf mask on was my favorite thing to do in grade school. Actually, it lasted into junior high as well. I’m sure I was a few other things in my Halloween career, but the main activity on Halloween night are the tricks.

There’s no doubt I had a serious problem with authority as a pre-teen. I tried to get into trouble, but liked the idea of it much better than actually getting caught. Brushes with the law (hiding from cops in alleys) and a few seriously angry motorists gave me the thrill of a lifetime. It’s that adrenaline rush of being chased … there’s simply nothing like it. Roller coasters come close, but they are so controlled it isn’t the same.

It’s that reckless feeling I came to associate with Halloween. You wouldn’t guess it from looking at me now, but there was a time when I longed for the “trick” on Halloween. Rumors of grouchy old men who grumbled “trick” when asked the loaded question “trick or treat?” ran like wildfire through our “Devil’s Night” gangs. Yes. The rumor also contained the caveat, “he’s got the water hose out, too” which is pretty much a night ender when the temperature dips to the freezing point. The dilemma remained. Just thinking about it now gives me an inkiling of that feeling.

Growing up on the plains of Kansas, October was cold. And it was truly fall there. None of this winter-on/winter-off stuff happens in the flat lands. First off, snow isn’t uncommon, but rarely sticks around for more than a week. It’s too humid. That is where the full-face mask comes in handy. Your own hot breath provided a moment’s comfort when hiding from an angry neighbor who had just finished stomping out a burning bag of dog crap.

Legends like the “three grocery sacks of candy” and the “solo walk through the cemetery” and the “razor blade in the big Snickers” and the “pins in the Resses” took on mythic status the next day at school. But there was one thing that could be certain … our parents had heard all those rumors and bought into them fully. There was to be no sampling of the candy before inspection. It was that simple.

There was one old man who gave out 50-cent pieces up in Carpenter Heights. His neighbor gave out 8 oz. bottles of Coca-Cola (major score) and there was always the rumor of the fabled “big Snickers bars” given out by the scary old lady at the end of the darkest street. We were almost sure she had a collection of little kids’ pinky fingers, but had no proof.

And then there were the “throwback hippies” who gave apples and oranges. What a gyp! But to their credit, they were usually the most happy to see the kids in costumes.

But somehow the glitter has worn off the fairy wings and it seems nothing more than another sanctioned amateur night for drinkers. Like New Year’s Eve everywhere and the last day on the hill in Vail, it’s just another excuse to get hammered; but with a costume.

I suppose it comes from our past in the courts of kings. Masquerade balls used to be one of the major events of the party season. Then, it was feathered masks on long sticks, formal gowns and tuxedos that hid each other’s identity. Somehow our lust for anonymity became scary. Of course, there are many roads upon which we’ve traveled to get to topical costumes and the frightening stuff of horror movies, but the sentiment remains the same. Get goofy while in hiding. It’s a chance for folks to live out their fantasies without being held accountable.

If nothing else, it’s a good excuse for an extra drink or two. I submit that the reason Halloween is so popular in America is that we long for anonymity in a world where it’s so easy to pick out the Americans. Just ask any European if they can spot the Yank in the crowd. Chances are good they can pick them out based on body language and mannerisms alone. Perhaps we should analyze this a little.

Americans have always been “ugly.” Far less streamlined than our European counterparts but no less greedy, Americans tend to be pragmatic and stoic. The ideal of “pulling yourself up by the bootstraps” is what the New World is all about and capitalists and striving for independence.

Perhaps that’s a little deep for Halloween, but leaps of faith and suspension of disbelief are what the Holidays are all about anyway. And remember, Christmas stuff at the big box store will be available on November 1 … right on schedule.

Vail Colorado

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