Column: An out-of-control Halloween from years ago

Editor's note: This column was originally published on Sept. 23, 2009.

WORTHINGTON — When August has left us with the last hoorah of summer, we will try to tightly grasp on to every day in September. The "aha" days of October are treasures and give us one glorious fling. The fling that will be flung is none other than Halloween.

The small towns and even some of the larger ones did not have Halloween activities for young children and certainly nothing of interest for teenagers. We of the 1940s era made our own fun, which was of the mischievous kind.

Living in a town of hills, Ortonville, Minn., was a place where fun, work, play or whatever centered on a hill — or two or three or more. On Halloween night, we moved cars! Does anyone remember when you did not lock your car at night? Well, a lot of people did not and so we could get in the car, put in the clutch and have someone give it a shove to the hill — and down we would go. We did not hurt anything or damage anything; we simply moved your car to a different location — usually down by the lake or in one of our favorite alleys.

So, we are finished with that and still have wound-up energy ready to unravel. We continued to walk up to the shanty town homes with something scary in mind to do. "There was a tumbled down shack, built way back, about 25 feet from the railroad track!"


As we wondered around the yard, we found ourselves gravitating toward a very large old wooden barrel. It seemed to beckon us as we sashayed around, looking at the size of it and wondering what is was for. As we danced around the barrel it seemed to tease us to move it, and soon we were rolling it back and forth like playing dodgeball.

We did not mean to take it, but the spirit of Halloween was alive inside the barrel and soon we felt heir to this round, wooden, tumbling plaything. It seemed to laugh and say, "Look at me, I can have fun on Halloween just as well as the pumpkins!" "Roll me, roll me, roll me." And so we did, and so the story goes like this.

There are about four different levels of the hill to describe. The first hill was a short block, and so we got the barrel rolling with just a little shove. We didn't want it to actually go down the whole way. Oh, what fun to see that spooky barrel take off. Well, it didn't go far, as it turned on its side and rolled toward the curb and landed — kerplunk — on the grass.

Running down the hill, our enthusiasm rose to astronomical levels to try this again. And again not to worry, as the barrel turned on its narrow end and went with the crashing noise of thunk, thunk, thunk! By this time, we were certain it could never roll straight.

There were four or five of us teens and not one of us with ounce of sense. But of course it was the spirit of Halloween that filled the laughing barrel, coaxing us on for more, more, more rolls. The rougher we were, the more the barrel laughed and made weird sounds. He — the barrel — was having more fun rolling down hill than sitting idle waiting for rain to fall.

As the barrel bounced around in noisy bedlam, we realized this prank was not meant to be staged for public viewing.

OK, now before us is the steepest hill, and at the bottom of it runs our main street. We figure we should not do it but — well — the barrel never rolls straight anyway, so here goes. Let's see if it will go as far as Dinnels Studio.

Here it goes — OMG, it is going too fast, and it looks like a complete pan-out! Look at it go! It is going straight as an arrow, and skipping and hopping and jumping way too fast. Now it is airborne, flying like pterosaurs from the Jurassic age.


We are now screaming with fright, as there is nothing we can so to stop the Halloween barrel. It is heading for the biggest bay window in town — the window of the furniture store on the corner of Main Street. Talk about being frightened on Halloween night; we hit the jackpot! We closed our eyes and heard a big bang. We looked and saw that the barrel had hit the lamp post! We were too petrified to do or say anything.

No, we did not go after it. We ran for home, giving thanks all the way. Lucky for us November was nearly here, and we welcomed the peaceful month of Thanksgiving as we had a secret to be very thankful for.

Nancy Zuehlke resides in Worthington.

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