I’ve a confession to make.
I am a Halloween curmudgeon.
There I’ve said it.
I’m always surprised when I see a home fully decked out with tombstones, spider webs and skeletons in late September. I just don’t understand it.
Not since I roamed the streets of my childhood neighborhood as a pre-teen dressed in stereotypical 1960s hippie garb have I donned a Halloween costume. I recall sorting through the pillowcase at the end of an evening of trick or treating, prioritizing the good stuff like full-size Butterfinger bars and Three Musketeers. I would shuck Circus Peanuts and Smarties off to the side. I could make quite a haul trick or treating in a neighborhood lined with houses on half-acre lots.
Halloween is different out in farm country. For sure we had those Halloweens on the farm when the kids were young; my wife would drive them around to the neighboring country homes and farms. I recall a photo of my three kids in their costumes – my son, David, as Batman, and my daughters, one a gypsy and the other as Pocahontas. I was always milking cows during trick-or treat-night in the country. Long after the kids grew up and moved on from the event our Halloween tradition was similar to many dairy-farm families. We would buy an assortment of candy to put in a bowl and leave in the well-lit entryway to our farmhouse, for trick or treaters to have free-choice access to. It was best to buy our favorite selections because we’d likely be grabbing at that bowl for several days afterward until thankfully the temptation ran out.
It’s difficult to become excited about Oct. 31 when making a living as a grass-based dairy farmer. The next day is November. The grass is finished growing; all we could do was ration out what was left until the snow flew. Worse yet the World Series had ended and left me to face the coming winter alone, counting the months until opening day. The flannel-lined jeans would be brought back to life. I’d likely be pelted with sleet locking the cows out in their grass paddock. If there was anything spooky it was just that.
By Halloween I’d finish milking in the dark and walk the lane to lock out the herd with a headlamp lighting my way. A skunk might cross the lane ahead. A Jack Snipe would alight from underfoot to fly off with the characteristic whistle burst created by the rapid wingbeat. I’d shine my light across the paddock and a glow of bovine eyes seemingly suspended and unconnected to anything would reflect back at me. The walk back to my farmhouse was quiet once I was far enough away from the sound of the cows tearing at the last remaining grass. The last thing on my list was checking the pumphouse space heater to ensure a freeze didn’t take its toll on the water system.
Finally I’d have one last mini candy bar before placing my work boots on the boot heater and calling it another day. Another Halloween was in the books.