Of course we celebrate Halloween here in the woods. For me it is a chance to rekindle those first spooky nights I spent living alone in my humble cabin so many years ago. Just stepping out the cabin door after dark was a challenge. I alerted to every tree crackle, splash in the creek and nocturnal bird wail. When there is a tingle of fear in your heart the mind will oblige by creating beasts out of simple shadows and voices out of the combined frequencies of running water, wind and rustling leaves. Once I even convinced myself I heard Latin music coming from across the valley. In the light of the next morning I realized it was a combination of the thump of a pumping oil well and a squeaky cam bearing. (I hope I haven’t offended any Latin music lovers). As I grew more familiar with the sounds of the night the beasts, voices and tingles went away. I miss them.
Fear may be the oldest and strongest emotion of mankind. I think a little scare now and again can be a wonderful tonic for the soul, even the playful scares of Halloween.
Traditionally there is a contest among Dooley, the chickens and the goats to create appropriate Halloween decorations for the cabin, coop and pens. The chickens won for the third straight year with a figure depicting West Virginia’s famous Mothman creature. It stood five feet high, was covered in feathers and flapped its wings (there were two chickens hidden inside that animated the wings). Second place went to Dooley. He crafted a ghoulish “dog devil from hell” (his own words) out of the carcasses of a number of dead animals he had collected from the woods. If he had figured out some way to cover the stench, he may have taken first place. The goats took third by spelling out “Happy Halloween” with leaves stuffed in the squares of their pen fence.
After the goat’s annual protest that the contest isn’t fair because the chickens have more materials to work with, the trick or treating commenced. I wait inside the cabin until I hear a peck, scratch or head butt at the door. I open the door and hand out species appropriate treats. The costumes were very creative this year. Dooley showed up at the door twice, once with a moustache and sombrero and then again with a squirrel on his back astride a small cloth saddle. I pretended not to notice it was Dooley and gave him a second treat because…well, because it was Dooley.