Pumpkins weren’t hard to come by

Pumpkins weren’t hard to come by. They were laying in fields from Mr. Brooks’ back pasture all the way out both sides of the Como Road. The Cherry Bombs we bought from the disabled veteran who lived over on Forrest Avenue. I don’t recollect exactly how we put the two together.

It was an awkward age for us. We were too old to be dressing up like the Lone Ranger and “trick or treating” for candy. We had also outgrown the annual Halloween Carnival down at the high school. Come on now, we were big time freshmen; we were way too “hip” to bob for apples, throw darts at multi colored balloons or hang around the cake walk with our parents!   

But we were still too young to drive. Can you think of a worse dilemma? It’s hard to look cool when you have to walk to the Park Theatre for the feature presentation. It was more than embarrassing when Jackie Burns would pull up in his ’56 Ford and ask, “You boys want a ride to town?” We looked like we were on top of the world holding down that back booth out at Frank’s Diary Bar but the truth of the matter was we didn’t have a way to leave.

I’m not making excuses for what happened. It was like Ricky told them down at the police station after they hauled us in, “It was a bad idea that got multiplied!” Adolescence is just a term in Dr. Freud’s book…….unless you happen to be one.

It took a decently sharp knife and a minute or two to empty out a pumpkin. Drop a Cherry Bomb in that thing and the explosion would send tiny chunks of mucus and rind flying in every direction. Twisting two cherry bombs together would give you even more range. 

You might think how silly and juvenile today. We were wild with anticipation that Halloween night of 1961. “Let’s test it out on Miss Boaz.” Yogi had hollowed out an average sized pumpkin and he was raring to go. I started to protest. Mrs. Boaz was our nearest neighbor. If somehow it got back to my Daddy that we had crossed the line with a next door friend, he’d kill me graveyard dead…..or worse!

At a younger age I would have just walked away in search of some easy candy. Older, I would have certainly stood up for my neighbor against such a hair brained scheme. At fourteen, I was trying so hard to fit in. Be one of the guys. And, I must admit, blowing up pumpkins wasn’t much fun if you couldn’t share it with some unsuspecting soul.   

Squeaky knocked on the door. Yogi waited a long second and rolled the “loaded” pumpkin up the sidewalk toward the front steps. We were racing across the street for some evergreen bushes when the thing went off. We turned in time to see the porch light come on and Mrs. Boaz step out. It’s a scene still frozen in time. Halloween night, the eerie gloaming from the sixty watt bulb, the innocent bystander looking toward the skies as for an explanation and tiny shards of pumpkin meat, rind and seed seemingly suspended in mid air.

As soon as the coast was clear we broke and ran for the pumpkins scattered in Mr. Brooks’ back field! We were laughing so hard I couldn’t catch my breath. The thrill of victory had already clouded my judgment. “How many cherry bombs do we have?” Squeaky was counting on a memorable night. We each borrowed a pumpkin from the expansive patch and started for town, scraping out the insides as we went.

The town square fish pond was the next victim. And we didn’t have to run. We just moved back behind the World War I cannon and watched the water rise up in the air. If the giant goldfish were startled at all, they didn’t let on. We rolled two pumpkins at once down the slight incline of Broadway Street. One explosion went off in front of Tri-County Electric, the other made it all the way to the Ben Franklin Store. The town was closed down for Halloween night so we weren’t drawing much of a crowd.

Jerry thought of the haunted house. The Jaycees had put up a giant tent across from city hall, built rooms out of cardboard walls, blackened all the lights and filled it with horror items and traps and missteps around every bend. We rolled “lighted up” pumpkins under three sides of that “house”. Folks, you’ve never heard such screaming and yelling. It was like “Nightmare on Elm Street” twenty years before the movie came out! Men, women, boys and girls filed out of that place with pumpkin innards plastered to their skirts, jeans, tennis shoes and hair.

Me and Yogi, Ricky, Squeaky, Jerry and Billy B. were the most innocent bystanders ever seen in those parts!

A quick trip back to Mr. Brooks’ field to reload and we were sneaking into the side door to the high school auditorium. We were figuring on a simultaneous attack on the fishing booth, the bag bean toss and the cake walk. We were lighting up just as night patrolman Jim Dick Crews was easing in to take his chance at winning Mrs. Crawford’s seven layer coconut cake. He nabbed Yogi and Jerry with the lit match in their hands. The guilty accomplices were caught “pumpkin handed”. 

At least we got a free ride back to town. We didn’t count on the angry Jaycees. Mrs. Boaz, bless her heart, forgave us with a laugh. The folks at Tri-County Electric weren’t so charitable about their broken window. We never got a report from the fish.

I wish Jim Dick would’ve just locked us up. He called our parents instead.

The “treating” was over. The “tricking” was just beginning!

Happy Halloween,