October 31, 2008


Category: News — Ira @ 7:00 pm


“And the great winds howl and swoop across the land:
they make a distant roaring in great trees, and boys in
bed will stir in ecstasy, thinking of demons and vast
swoopings upon the earth.”

—Thomas Wolfe, “Of Time and the River”

We stood there in the graveled barnyard beside the old concrete water tank by the windmill, dressed in our ragged denim coats to fend off the nippy air. My brother Titus and me, two little boys outside after supper. The shadows of late October crept in and closed around us. To the west, a faint orange glint in the cloud-rimmed skies reflected the last vestiges of the setting sun.

“Yep,” Titus announced wisely, “this week is Halloween. We’ll have to pull the buggies into the shed. Can’t leave’em out overnight.”

Above us bats and nighthawks flitted and swooped about. In the woods a quarter mile to the south, something ungodly, who knows what, screeched and wailed. An owl, maybe. I was probably six years old and had a vague idea of what Halloween was. It was a certain night in late October when we didn’t go away. Stayed inside.

Trick or treating would have been as foreign to me as Easter eggs. No such concept existed in my world. We did get Halloween candy, wrapped in twisted paper, gunky gooey stuff that stuck to your teeth and the roof of your mouth. Not my favorite.

So I knew what Titus was talking about. But I asked anyway.

“Why? Why do we have to put the buggies inside the shed?”

Titus paused. “So the Halloweeners don’t take them,” he said dramatically.

Halloweeners. I’d never seen one, but the word sent shivers down my spine. Boogey-men. Wicked English people who came around after dark at Halloween and did bad things. They harbored a particular affinity for vandalizing the Amish farms in Aylmer.

We’d heard the stories from the time we could talk. Halloweeners lurked around on the gravel roads at night in pickup trucks or old beater cars. Driving slowly with lights out. They sneaked onto Amish places and tipped over outhouses. (Yes, most Amish farms had an outhouse, even though there was running water in the house.)

They were also fond of hooking a buggy behind their vehicle and taking off down the road with buggy in tow. The buggy might show up in a field miles away the next day. Or it might be burned or smashed. I vaguely recall the story of how one buggy ended up on top of a farmer’s shed. How it got up there is anyone’s guess. Lots of muscle power, I suppose.

From the recesses of my memory, I also recall how one of our neighbors to the west decided to sit in his buggy on Halloween night to guard it. Sure enough, the evil Halloweeners showed up after midnight. Details remain sketchy, but somehow he made enough noise to alert them and scared them off. Stupid thing to do, that. They might have hurt him.

And then of course, there was one other activity Halloweeners loved to do. And not just at Halloween. Year round, especially in the summer months. And that was smashing mailboxes.

They usually clubbed mailboxes with an iron bar, or smashed them with a large rock. Occasionally backed a vehicle into the mailbox post and snapped it.

Halloweeners weren’t a major continuous presence, but they were a fear factor. Not everyone’s buggies were towed away, not everyone’s mailbox was smashed. I can’t remember that our outhouse was ever tipped over. Probably because it was too big and bulky. And placed behind the house, making it hard to get to quietly.

So we did what most families did in the community. We pulled our buggies into the open front machine shed on Halloween eve. Out of sight, so as not to tempt any scouting Halloweeners.

But our mailbox was another matter. It was targeted at least once, maybe more.

(NOTE: The details of the following story may be mildly embellished, as the characters involved may or may not attest.)

At dusk one late summer evening, my oldest brother Joseph glanced out of his upstairs bedroom window to the west. Half a mile away a car approached slowly, lights out, dawdling along. Joseph was instantly suspicious that the occupants might be up to no good.

He quickly called his brother Jesse in the next bedroom. The two of them dressed hastily and ran out to the front yard, carrying a flashlight. One of them snuck out to the road and picked up a hefty rock. They then crouched behind a good-sized bush, conveniently planted in the yard about fifteen feet from the mailbox. Two strapping young Amish boys defending their home turf, waiting in suspense as darkness settled around them.

They heard the muffled growl of the idling engine as the dawdling car crept toward them on the crunching gravel road. As it neared our mailbox, it slowed to a crawl. Then stopped. They heard the passenger’s window squeaking as it was hand-cranked down. In the haze between dusk and darkness, they saw a shadowy figure, a thug Halloweener, reaching out, wielding in his hands a solid iron bar. He lifted it high and smashed it down with all his might on our mailbox. They heard the dull crunch of the blow.

But only once. As the thug lifted the bar above his head to smash down again, my brave brothers emerged from behind the bush. Joseph snapped on the heavy duty 12-volt flashlight. The bright beam abruptly flooded the car. Two men in the front seat, the passenger hung suspended from the window, arms lifted above his head. Two hazy shadows sat in the back seat. They froze as the light enveloped them. Jesse then stepped up beside his brother. He wound up and heaved the large rock with all his might. It arced, spinning through the darkness like a missile of vengeance and smashed into a metal fender with a great crunching thud.

Inside the car, the stunned Halloweeners reacted quickly. The passenger with the iron bar lurched back through the window, falling back onto the seat. The rock probably had narrowly missed him. Then the driver punched down hard on the gas. The car fishtailed as it roared away, spitting a shower of gravel from its rear tires.

The cowardly enemy was routed. The valiant warriors stood victorious, tall and strong and confident. They had successfully defended the borders of their homeland.

Shaking with excitement, my brothers ran out to the road and looked to the east after the fleeing car. They then snuck quietly back into the house and upstairs to their bed-rooms. They had a tale to tell. But they had to be careful. Father would not be pleased with such aggressive resistance to evil. Not in keeping with the Amish tradition of non-resistance, and all that.

Fortunately for them, he never found out. But the rest of us sure did. We reveled in the glory of it and rehashed the story countless times over the years.

But we never told. Until now.


Those who dislike political discussion may skip this paragraph. It’s now down to the final days, and boy, am I ready for it to be over. I’m sick to death of all the lying blowhards. Meanwhile, I am sticking with my original predictions. The OBAMA! camp seems increasingly skittish with each passing day. We’ll see. And yes, I still plan to vote for Chuck Baldwin. Or Ron Paul. Or maybe not at all.

There was much strutting and crowing about the office all day Monday, as the Phillies took a 3-1 lead over the Rays on Sunday night. I advised my tormentors not to count their chicks before they hatch, that the fat lady hadn’t sung yet. They smirked and said she’s tuning up for the finale.

Sure enough, because of pouring rain, Tuesday’s game was stopped after 5-1/2 innings, tied 2-2. First time that happened in World Series history. Tension was palpable around the office for the next two days. I did my best to exacerbate it, loudly proclaiming that perhaps the fat lady had caught a cold.

But in the end, when they finished that game on Wednesday night, the Phillies pulled it out. With the help of the umps, as was the case all through the series. Had to be by far the worst-umped World Series or any series that I’ve ever seen. But still, the Phillies deserve all the accolades in the world. They won it all. Ultimately, that’s why they play.

The Rays deserve credit. They were young and relaxed and just might have pulled it off, had a few of those atrocious ump calls gone their way. But they didn’t. And no worst-to-first team has ever won a championship in any major professional sport. That fact still stands.

The blog is a beautiful thing, upon occasion. Powerful, too. After my lament for pie in last week’s post, I received a mysterious invitation to dinner at an Amish friend’s house. Nothing too unusual about that, I stop by often to hang out. I sat with the family and we ate a delicious home-cooked meal. And then the lady of the house proudly trotted out two fresh raisin cream pies. I was astounded. And they were absolutely mouth watering. The Amish of Lancaster County don’t know the joys of raisin cream pie. She had hunted up a recipe and baked them for the first time, just for me.

Of course, I got to take the remnants home with me. It pays to have connections, I thought to myself as I left.

Having good friends is even better.

What should I pine for next? World peace, perhaps? The lion snuggling with the lamb? Nah. I’ll settle for something a bit more realistic. And attainable. Like a fresh-baked cherry pie.



  1. Great story, Ira! No wonder we talk about the good old days. They sound so exciting!

    Since your blog last week I have been a little more observant as I drive down the road and see people husking corn. I’ve seen a dozen or more farmers husking corn and throwing it on the wagon here in Holmes Co. It looks like fun from the road. Sure enough, it’s always a “schraiks” load with the corn piled up against the high side board and slanting down to the low board. The next time I drive by the same field I see corn shocks which look like a Currier & Ives Christmas card. Somebody did a heap of work while I wasn’t looking.

    It was good to talk to you tonight. Keep up the great work.

    Comment by John Schmid — October 31, 2008 @ 8:18 pm

  2. What saddens me about the elections, especially this time around, since things are so obvious, is this: God’s people, many who really know Him, also really believe that who is elected President will make a difference.

    Unless there is widespread repentance (on our part!), things will not change.

    Message: Consider electing a non-Socialist alternative before the whole world is brought under the power of the Beast.

    And, yes I am a post-millennialist (no gov’t Beast need prevail – Rome did not); and I do not mean to say “a” as if it is the Presidency alone can change even the civil government crisis we face. The Founders made sure to more greatly empower Congress. I won’t go on; a word to the wise is sufficient.

    Comment by LeRoy Whitman — November 2, 2008 @ 3:17 pm

  3. Alymer? Did you say Alymer, Ontario? Surely you know my late friend Elmo Stoll, not?

    Ira’s response: Indeed. I suggest you read my June 6th and August 22nd posts.

    Comment by Brother Barabbas — November 3, 2008 @ 9:36 am

  4. Once upon a time someone asked 2 different people to paint a picture ‘peace’.
    When they were done, here is what they had painted.

    The one painting had a person sitting out by the seaside at evening…looking out towards the horizon of that vast blue ocean…a beautiful sunset mirrored on calm waters….waves gently lapping on the sandy shore….birds filling out the scene.
    The person thot, ‘what a beautiful portrayal of ‘peace’.”

    Then the second painting.
    A raging storm…dark angry sky…pelting rain…trees bowed in the driving wind…the air filled with leaves/debris.
    In the midst of this storm…there was a giant oak tree…standing tall and firm and true.
    In this tree there was a small hole.
    In the hole there was some food stashed, and a nest.
    In the nest was a mother bird with her young.
    At utter peace.

    Ahhh…what a different portrayal of ‘peace’!

    2 completely different pictures of ‘peace’.

    Seems the whole religious world is either looking for the 1st scenario to develop;
    Or, they believe the storm is going to hit, but He will ‘snatch’ them out, somewhere along the way.

    I’m afraid that neither one is correct.
    Many are going to find themselves caught out in the open…when the storm hits…because they refuse to believe one is coming, and to prepare themselves for it.

    That is called ‘reaping’.

    Oh, and don’t tell me about the many cries of ‘wolf’ thru the years.
    I’m aware of that just as well as you are.
    The devil has done his job well.
    Very, very well.
    Almost…to perfection.
    But, not quite.

    Comment by fritz — November 4, 2008 @ 12:53 pm

  5. Halloweeners. That is so cute.

    I love Halloween, but I can see where a little Amish boy would quiver at the mention of it. Especially when the evil English act like such idiots. Why? Oh, why?

    My mom always made holidays fun for my sister, brother and I. And in our Catholic home, the pagan holiday of Halloween was no exception. Demons, satanists, and evil were never a part of it, never even crossed our innocent, little minds. It was about one thing and one thing only. Free candy!

    After we scoured the neighborhood, throats stinging from countless rounds of “trick-or-treat” belted out at each door, we headed home. Exhausted, yet full of joyful anticipation, we hit the floor and dumped the entire contents of our orange, plastic jack-o-lanterns onto the well worn rug. Oh, the plethora of bright, beautiful wrappers teasing our taste buds into submission. The melodious sound of papers crackling as we fondled each piece of coveted candy (except for the sweet-tarts). In our home, this was the ultimate kid fantasy.

    It was now time for Mom to act out her annual Halloween ritual. It started out with her sorting through our precious cargo pretending to be looking for anything suspicious. Then she laid out her demands. Beyond fail, every single Halloween, each kid had to fork over at least two snack sized Snickers bars to satisfy her sweet tooth. We groaned, but what could we do? She was the MOM. After a few moments of indignation, we quickly refocused to the task at hand. It was time to sort through our booty, we earned it! All that trudging and sing-songing.

    I wonder sometimes if this is where my superior skills in organization began. Each piece of candy, after careful manipulation, needed to be placed into one of three categories. The first category included anything chocolate or caramel. This was the “look, but don’t touch” zone. Category two was the “trade ya” pile and three was, “Man, I got gyped.” We usually saved category three for the bleak days when all the chocolate bars, licorice, and Blo-pops were gone. And even then, it was debatable whether consumption would take place. After sorting and trading it was time to dig in. Mom gave us free reign which I will always respect her for. If we got sick it was our own doing. We learned how to regulate. Yeah, right! We gorged! And had a jolly good time of it.

    So, as you can see, Halloween rocked our worlds.

    As an adult, it’s no longer about getting, but giving. One year, after joining a new church, they made it clear that Halloween should not be celebrated. “Well”, I thought, “maybe they’re right.” Here I had made up all these candy bags and now what was I going to do? Evening rolled around. I listened as the children sang out “trick-or-treat” at the neighbors’ front doors. (I was living in a town-home). They chatted with the kids, fawned over their costumes, then plopped a treat in their bags. What fun they were having. And I was missing it! I decided that night that I was going to celebrate Halloween from then on and have a grand time of it. And I have!

    I ended up taking the candy bags to the rescue mission. I hope they enjoyed them.

    Comment by Francine — April 8, 2013 @ 3:22 am

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