Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. Not because of the pagan ritualistic celebrations of all things evil, but because it’s just fun. The costumes, the scary stories, the frightening movies, the old PTO Halloween Carnivals the schools used to hold, the Jaycees haunted houses of years gone by, trick or treating without fear of finding bad stuff in your candy, the Jack O’Lanterns, the huge harvest moon, the bonfires. Halloween is just fun.
I remember nearly every scary movie I saw back when I was young, but I will not attend even one horror flick today. I remember being frightened then, but today’s horror films send me into shock. Not long ago, my wife and I went to the local theater to watch a movie, and the trailer for the movie “The Nun” came on. It was so frightening I screamed like a little girl and nearly vacated the premises. It was beyond frightening, and my wife takes pride in telling everyone the part about my screaming like a little girl. I don’t think it’s that humorous quite frankly.
I am a fan of the Frankenstein movies with Boris Karloff, :”Count Dracula” with Bela Legosi, “The Wolf Man” with Lon Chaney Jr. and a movie that I have not been able to positively identify that aired on television in the 1960s called “Scarecrow.” My research has found several movies that appear closely related to what I remember, but they are not it. Regardless, this mystical outlaw rode his lone steed through the wilderness exacting his revenge on the townspeople with a corn knife, or machete. In one fell swoop in surprise attacks as he would ride by, leaving his enemy with the hat (and head) in their hands. My kind of artistic expression.
As an impressionable kid living on a farm with a horse, my dad’s old army p-coat (really comfy in the scorching heat of summer) and a paper sack with eyes cut out and the face of a scarecrow drawn on it, with the finishing touches of a deteriorated straw hat pulled onto my head, I was ready to terrorize my baby brother, my younger cousin visiting from Boston, my sister, and anyone else I could. In a surprise attack, on my trusty steed I would crest the top of nearby hills (for the sake of dramatics), gallop uncomfortably close to them, and gently (not really) bop them on the head with a plastic T-ball bat (Mom and Dad had strict rules about actually decapitated someone) and speed off having successfully exacted revenge on my subjects, leaving screaming little victims in my wake.
I must tell you that the exhilaration of a “Scarecrow” episode was as addictive as any drug, and this addiction had to be fed daily.
After enduring the agony of these surprise attacks, my brother and cousin complained (tattled) to my father and mother, and they, in turn, had a fireside chat with me. My dad found it a little humorous that I claimed is wasn’t me and tried to lead him to believe that such a mysterious being was haunting our farm. However, he asked me to give a message to this “Scarecrow,” since I was the only person in the family close enough to communicate with him. His message was stop or he was going to burn his straw stuffing. I agreed to pass the message along.
I managed to resist the daily “Scarecrow” rides for almost a week, but on the fifth day the urge to ride and frighten became unbearable. It was about 3 p.m. Friday, and I knew that my father came home from work at 4 p.m. without fail. I had an hour. I saddled up, costumed up, found my victims playing under a nearby shade tree, and the plans for attack were complete. I mounted my steed, rode to the top of a nearby hill (for dramatics) from which to launch my attack, and I was off. Riding as hard as I could I crested the hill on which my brother and cousin were quietly and securely (so they thought) at play, and just as I was in motion to spring my attack, my father’s pickup truck made an early arrival into our driveway. I was busted. I reigned my trusty steed around and rode like the wind for the forest in the back 40 of our farm, knowing my scarecrow days were over.
Long story short, I had to come home at some point, and when I did, Dad was waiting, and the wall-to-wall “Scarecrow” counseling began.
That day my Scarecrow days ended as I hung up the hot, sweaty Army P-coat, the paper sack hand-drawn mask, the plastic T-ball bat and my saddle and spurs, supposedly permanently. However, if on some bright moonlit night you spy an image on a nearby hill (for dramatics), hurry into the house and bolt the doors, because, Scarecrow could return at any time. Maybe not, but maybe. Just sayin.’
Herb Day is a longtime local radio personality and singer-musician. He can be heard Tuesday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon on 88.7 WOBO-FM, and can be reached at [email protected]