Bob Huber: Local Columnist
When I was a kid, Halloween was the high-water mark on the calendar of my life. Oh sure, I fiddled with Christmas to please parents, but Halloween allowed me to shake down neighbors, tip over outhouses, and remain anonymous. Oh, it was a wonderful time.
Costumes were no big problem. They were made from feed sacks, worn sheets, and old shirts. Ghosts and witches were the most popular disguises. Once the metamorphosis was complete, parents couldn’t pick their own kids out of a lineup.
Madcap adventures took place on Halloween night, such as older guys mugging for your loot and college students dumping iced water from their rooming-house windows. These only served to enhance the scary romance of Halloween.
My cousin Herman, who was seven years older than I was and outweighed me by 300 pounds, sometimes accompanied me on my Halloween rounds. I paid him a modest fee out of my loot, but he was worth it. Using an old hay tarp, he dressed as a boxcar.
One time, after a good drenching, Herman stood with me in front of a college rooming-house, scratching his beard stubble and looking forlornly at his water-soaked, size 18 tennis shoes. When he marched into the house and queried several college students about this phenomenon, he found their answers lacking, so he launched a new Halloween wrinkle: Bust the Punkin Heads of College Wise Guys.
However, Herman had a short attention-span. By the time I was in the sixth grade, he had lost interest in beating up college students. In fact, he became one himself with a football scholarship to the local college. (He played the entire left side of the line.)
This took place the same year I reached my mid-youth crisis, when I told my friend Smooth Heine, “I’m staying home this Halloween. I’m tired of getting mugged.”
“But it’s our last hurrah,” Smooth said. “Next year we’ll be in junior high, and we’ll have to gawk at girls and bob for apples. Besides, I have a secret plan.”
So I went along — I wanted one last Halloween memory before becoming an official senior citizen.
Finally the big night came. We had terrorized only a handful of houses before we ran into our first gang of bullies.
Their leader, a buffalo-shaped neanderthal named Mug Sweeney, said, “Hey, what you got in them bags?” I tried to run, but Smooth stopped me.
Turning to Mug, Smooth held out his bag of loot and said, “Here, take it.” His other hand covered his heart. “But please, let me keep the rest of my candy bar.”
“Candy bar?” Mug Sweeney asked, his eyes squinting. “Where’d you get it?”
Smooth held out the soggy remains of a Babe Ruth. “That old house with the balcony down on Twelfth Street. A college guy there said he felt bad about dumping ice water on us last year and wanted to atone for his sins by giving us candy bars.”
Smooth’s yarn had more holes than a fish net. Everyone knew about the smart-aleck college guys who lived in that house. In fact, rumor had it they also had a big roommate who liked to stomp anyone who whined, complained, or looked cross-eyed.
However, the last we saw of Sweeney’s gang was a blur of fists and elbows as they struggled to get there ahead of each other. We ran the other way and ditched school the next day to avoid Mug. We hid in the Heine barn and survived on our holiday candy.
We heard later that Mug looked for us all day. His shoes made squishy, swampy sounds when he walked, and he could barely see through swollen black eyes. You see, my cousin Herman, the boxcar, was that college guy who lived in the house on 12th Street and stomped Halloween whiners.
Bob Huber is a retired journalist living in Portales. He can be contacted at 356-3674.