I first posted this story on Sunbreaks in 2012. It’s from my book A Logger’s Daughter: Growing Up in Washington’s Woods. I hope it brings back some of your own Halloween memories, or perhaps you can use it to tell today’s children how some grandparents celebrated the day.
With four younger siblings, I sometimes had to postpone normal childhood milestones…like trick-or-treating at Halloween…because the others were too little.
But sometimes friend and neighbor Marcella took me with her on big-kid adventures, such as my first trick-or-treat expedition the October I turned six. Robe Valley neighbors Norman Blythe and his brother Bob went also, along with Betty and Margaret Otto, all of them twelve to fourteen years old. The five older kids stopped to pick me up at my house at dusk. I walked with them to where the then-unpaved Mountain Loop Highway intersected with the narrow lane that had been the first road into the valley. We followed the overgrown lane until we came to the collapsed ruins of an old cabin with a rusted-out car body in front of it. The boys told scary ghost stories about the place, but Marcella squeezed my hand to let me know they were making it up. They tied strings at knee level between trees on opposite sides of the lane to snag anybody else that might come that way.
By the time we got back to the main road, the stars were out. I trotted along with the big kids as they sang “Red Sails in the Sunset” and other popular songs of the day. I didn’t know those songs, but I did know “The Bear Went over the Mountain.” As soon as they stopped to catch their breaths, I belted out my song at the top of my lungs. They laughed, but Marcella joined me and then the rest did, too.
We asked for treats at the neighbors’ homes, and they gave us home-made cookies or apples and asked for a “trick” in return. I think we sang one of our songs for them. I especially remember visiting Green Gables, a new store then, whose proprietor sold gas and a few groceries. He opened the door to our knock and, thrill of thrills, gave us each a candy bar from his glass-fronted case.
We also stopped at the shack where a man we called Eaglebeak McQuarry lived. I clung tightly to Marcella’s hand because I was afraid of the lanky-haired man with sallow skin and grimy clothes. He looked dark and dull all over except for the scary glint in his black eyes. To my relief the shack seemed deserted. We found later that he and his silent Indian wife had moved away without telling anybody. The boys soaped the windows but stopped when we heard the whine of a dog coming from inside. We backed away and ran down the dark highway. Soon we neared my home. The older ones dropped me off with my loot.
I couldn’t keep a secret. I told my parents what had happened at the shack. The next morning my father released the abandoned dog.
For me, the chills of that night almost equaled the thrills. It remains my most memorable Halloween!