It was one of those blustery nights in late October approaching Halloween. The air was redolent with the smell of burning leaves. The full moon was ducking in and out of the clouds as they skittered across the sky like children playing tag on the school ground.
I was hitchhiking home to Calvertville from basketball practice at Worthington High School and caught a ride with two older high school guys. About a mile out of town was a single-lane bridge with the floor being half concrete and half creosote-soaked planking. They stopped mid-point, bailed out of the car, and yanked a bale of straw form the trunk piling it into a fluffy heap. A car approached the bridge and those two scofflaws set that straw on fire, leaped into the car, sped off the bridge and careened down a small road next to the river and watched.
The car slowed and moved closer and closer and came to a stop, at a safe distance. They watched for a few moments then turned around and went back to Worthington from whence they had come.
My two traveling companions laughed deliriously. This was a spectacular Halloween stunt for them. Not I. I was petrified because I feared that the bridge floor would catch fire. Miserable and fearful I slunk deep into the seat as my short life passed before my eyes. I visualized myself sitting in a jail cell playing a harmonica and singing, "Nobody Knows the Stubble I've Seen."
The flaming straw reminded me of the burning of Atlanta. As I watched, it seemed to roar and billow out over the top of the steel superstructure hundreds of feet in the air. I thought I was a dead man. Fortunately the straw burned rather quickly and the blustery wind blew much of it off the side and into the river below where it hissed, seethed and then quickly extinguished.
Soon we were on our way home again. No harm done. This time. Nevertheless I still checked the post office wall a few times looking for a poster asking for information about some pyromaniacs, burning straw and the Worthington bridge.
I remember Halloween of my youth and the generation before me, being times of more tricks than treats. I never went trick or treating in my youth. We never trooped about asking for candy. Later we just tricked people. Men would sit around the stove in the Calvertville Store, Dixon's Barber Shop or the Knights of Pythias Lodge Hall, gasconading (lying or exaggerating and boasting) about the tricks they had committed on All Hallows Eve in years gone by.
An annual prank in Rambler town was to pour soap in the fountain on the triangle and watch it bubble. Sometimes the perps were caught and required to clean the fountain.
The most horrible thing I ever did on Halloween was soap windows and rattle windows with corn. We broke one window before someone suggested that perhaps we should shell it first.
Larry grew up north of Calvertville on a farm and graduated from Worthington High School and Indiana State University. He can be reached at Goosecrick@aol.com or (317) 839-7656. Write him at 6860 Sunrise Drive, Plainfield, Ind., 46168. He has written five books. Contact him to purchase them.