Anyway, back to me. I received a request for another story about my Granny, and with Halloween coming up I had hoped to incorporate something honoring the holiday. I don't usually do anything particularly special other than making Halloween inspired pizza because our neighborhood is inhabited mostly by retirees, but I like to spend the day (and days leading up to Halloween) watching scary movies while I cut inlays. Or perhaps while I write you a story. (I am currently watching a documentary detailing the true story of the Amityville Horror if you were wondering.)
Fall in Rugby is incredibly beautiful. By October the leaves are proudly waving a final goodbye from their high branches, shrouded in brilliant color, making the hills behind my Granny's house look as though a forest fire is fast approaching. My favorite years are the rare ones when the red and orange leaves prevail and overtake the slightly less beautiful brown and yellow. This year was one of those years. On her birthday, Harper and I walked back in those hills of my Granny's property, exploring the old wood granary, graying with age, where I used to sneak in and teeter across the grain and corn cobs used for animal feed. I would pretend that the large open room next to the drying bin where, years before my existence, tobacco had been hung from the rafters, was my house on the prairie, complete with a lean-to that braved harsh winters. (Laura Inglalls Wilder was one of my favorite authors at the time.) The thick branches of the apple trees nearby were heavy with fruit, and reminded me of when I walked into the house, the rooms would be filled with the warm and welcoming smell of baked apples. When I was tall enough to reach I would sneak one (or twenty) of the dried apple chips my Granny had placed on the rack above the stove.
|My Granny's backyard, the granary is on the left.|
Several times during these fall visits I remember I was able to help choose the pumpkin for the Jack-o-Lantern that would sit on the front steps. As we gingerly stepped through my Granny's garden, trying to avoid the vegetables growing in rows, my dad instructed me to check each side of the pumpkin I chose, making sure there were no flat or discolored spots other than on the bottom. A lot of times we would discover that there were no perfect, non flattened, non discolored pumpkins, so my dad would change his tune and say that these spots were ok because we really just needed the sides of the pumpkin facing outward to look presentable. We would then take the pumpkin into the small room off the kitchen, sitting it on newspapers covering the little black and white speckled table under the window. It was always my job to scrape the insides out, and pick the seeds from the gooey orange guts. I remember always complaining about my job. My dad's job was to carve the pumpkin, as he is much more of an expert with a knife than I will ever be (though I am proud to announce that I have been preferring to use a pocket knife for more and more of the guitar making process these days). Plus I was maybe 4 years old or somewhere around there, so it was probably not most responsible option to give me a knife. Maybe someday I will tell you what happened when I was eight and tried to remove brownies from a pan with a knife. But maybe you can just imagine. It was always my decision where to place the triangle eyes, nose, and snaggletoothed mouth, and to decide how many teeth the Jack-o-Lantern had. I would decide depending on how many teeth I had lost recently. I never questioned why we only carved the traditional face until my dad noted it when I called to ask for some good Halloween stories. He said that was just always how he carved it, and how his dad carved it; that is just what a Jack-o-Lantern looks like. Good enough reason for me, though I am currently considering using Leah's idea of wielding a dremel to make the coolest looking Jack-o-Lantern ever, but that is a story for another time.
I only spent a few actual Halloween weekends at my Granny's house, but as I recall, nothing too special happened as people lived so far away from each other that trick-or-treaters would typically assemble at their elementary school or somewhere similar to fill pillowcases and orange plastic Jack-o-Lanterns with candy instead of driving door to door. The only evening visitors to my Granny's house each year would be Lauren and Leah. These days, every year my dad buys a bag of candy in the guise of providing for Halloween visitors, but I know he secretly wants it for himself because he never sounds all that dismayed when he tells me that no one came by and now he has all of these fun-size Snickers bars sitting in the shop.
When I called to chat the other day, my dad told me that when he was younger the kids were more into the tricks than the treats. I imagined knocking over mail boxes, toilet papering someone's house, but these were country tricks I had never heard of. He told me he participated in placing hay bales in the middle of streets so cars couldn't pass. Dirt roads, he assured me, where cars were already going slow. He said the serious kids would chop down a tree to cross the road to school so no one would be able to attend the next day. But that trick rare as it was hard work since you couldn't use a chainsaw for fear of being heard and were left to hack away all night with an axe running to hide each time a car passed. He also told me of a trick he knew of but of course had not participated in, where kids took to placing a fresh cow pie on the seat of a neighbor's tractor, then waited for them to come help one of those poor folks who got stuck behind a tree or in a hay bale. You can probably imagine what happened next. He also said turning over outhouses was a popular trick. My dad absolutely loves practical jokes so I have trouble believing that he has not been the culprit for some of these antics, but sure, let's just remember the fun, safe, happy Halloween times I had in Rugby because you know I can't even make the mongoose work in the shop.