October has been a month of incomparable beauty, although she is slowly sliding into the past. Her last gesture is to hand us the holiday of Hallowe’en, which many people frown upon because it has pagan roots.
It started with the Celtic people who lived 2,000 years ago in what is now Ireland. They believed that the spirits of the dead would come back for one night and inhabit the bodies of the living. People in the Celtic villages would dress up as ghouls and demons to keep the returning spirits at bay. This is where the tradition of dressing up for Hallowe’en started. (This was new to me!)
This a favorite holiday with the children, next to Christmas. It has become less about pagan rites and literal ghosts, and more about costumes and candy. It has actually become a game with the younger generation. We never thought about pagan holidays when we were kids. It was just a good time to “dress up,” which we loved, and an excuse to collect treats.
I’m sorry to say, however, that the majority of us, especially the boys, welcomed the holiday in order to practice a little mischief. They weren’t destructive or malicious, but I think they waited eagerly each year to pull their favorite prank. (I’m afraid there were a few girls who joined the “Rock Cliff” gang also.) We were expressly forbidden to do this, and we also forbade our own children, but there was always a few renegades.
There was a high rock cliff above the road just above the fork that led to Grannies Creek, which was perfect for their purpose. They planned ahead by hauling a zinc washtub on top of the rock cliff and filling it with water. Hallowe’en night they would use a few small logs to block the road below them, and when someone stopped their car and moved the roadblock, they would douse them with a bucket of water.
One Hallowe’en night our daughter Patty sneaked off (without our knowledge of course; we thought she was collecting candy) and joined the gang. They threw water on one of our neighbors, as she yelled, “Watch out, Baldy!) She reported later, “Man, I had no idea he could throw rocks like that—they were coming at us like bullets!” That may have been the time she ran and punctured her eye with a stick, which has bothered her for years. (Be sure your sins will find you out!)
There have been many tales that have evolved down through the years of the escapades that were committed by the Rock Cliff Gang. Like the time that the boys were running up the hill to escaped an enraged motorist, and one of the Summers’ twins (It may have been “Blackie”) had his dentures in his shirt pocket. He was one step behind my brother Ronnie, when his teeth popped out of his pocket and Ronnie stepped on them.
The tale I liked the best was the time some of the boys had the roadblock all set up, and also had kindled a bonfire to warm by while they awaited their next victim. Someone threw a shotgun shell in the fire, and when it exploded, a fragment of the case flew in Rodney’s leg. Injured and bleeding, he limped over to the school bus shelter and collapsed in the corner. About that time, a car came by, and stopped at the roadblock. The driver, an old man who lived at the top of the hill got out to move it, and of course got drenched.
His wife, a little old woman who wouldn’t have weighed 90 pounds soaking wet, jumped out of the car with her umbrella and descended on the boys. They all ran except Rod, who cowered down in the bus house and made himself as small as possible. She discovered him, and proceeded to beat him with her umbrella. He couldn’t run, so he took the punishment for all the boys. I repeat, be sure your sins will find you out!
My own baby sister, who remains unnamed, joined the gang one Hallowe’en, and purposely waited for Mom and Dad to come along. It was Friday evening, and she knew they would be coming home from Mt. Storm, Maryland, where Daddy was working. The hour grew late, but they finally came along, and Daddy got soaked.
My sister high-tailed it home, and beat them by a few seconds. She got in bed–shoes, clothes and all, and feigned sleep. Mom came in the door just storming, and was heard saying, “We came all the way from Bayard without a mishap, and got in sight of the house and got soaked!” My sister lay quiet as a mouse and never made a peep. It was years before Susie confessed to the evil deed! Uh-oh, I told her name!
I hesitated to write this in my column, as I did one time, and it sounded so exciting that some of our older matrons decided to continue the tradition. They laid their plans, and were having a high old time throwing water and laughing. Someone called the law enforcement officers, who broke up the party and told the women to go home. Mom said it was my fault for writing about it. I sure hope that no one else gets any ideas!
The generation before me had what they called “Gate Night,” when the boys would take a farmer’s gate off the hinges and pull it up on the barn roof. I think my own Dad was a partaker in these evil deeds. I figure there were many more pranks he was involved in, but I’ll never know the rest of the story!
I guess the worst thing that I ever did was soap a few windows, mainly the Virginia Office Building, because there was no one in there at night. What we did was not destructive or harmful things, such as “corning cars” which involved hiding and throwing dry corn at a passing car.
I’m thankful that I have outgrown those youthful pranks, and can sit in a nice, warm home and pass out candy to the younger folks. 1 Cor. 13-11 reads, “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man (woman) I put away childish things.
Now I realize that the only “spirit” is the Spirit of God, which the Lord has given to His believers to teach, to empower, to strengthen, to comfort, and to abide. In Ezekiel 36:27, we have this promise, “And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.”