Halloween was a big deal in my childhood home, not so much because it meant candy—which we appreciated, of course—but because it meant Halloween pranks–tricks played on neighbors without getting into serious trouble with our parents. We’re not talking about hiding behind a door and shouting, “Boo!” here, either. We’re talking about stuff that would (and should) get you arrested today.
One of our favorite Halloween pranks involved hiding in a cornfield at night and throwing dry kernels of corn at passing cars. “Corning,” we called it. It worked best when launched from an outcrop jutting out over the pavement. An ambush spot like that meant little chance of drivers giving chase. There were occasions when we had no choice but to run—fast—and that was the best fun of all. We stumbled over cornstalks and smacked into trees. We didn’t have to win the race back to the rendezvous point. We just had to be faster than the other guy.
Occasionally, a prank victim slammed on the brakes and fired up a spotlight. This sent us scrambling like escaping jailbirds. Only once was there a threat of a gun. That was made by my dad, actually, when we found ourselves the victims of corning. There was no gun in the car, of course, but when Dad yelled, “Annie, hand me the gun,” it sure made those kids in the cornfield run like hell.
We made “dummies” by stuffing some of Dad’s old clothes with straw or leaves. These were tied to ropes and dragged across the road at night, thereby making drivers think they were about to hit someone. Yes, we did that! And so did every other kid for twenty-five miles.
I won’t even mention the soaping of windows–or waxing, if we hated you. Or, the roadside purses filled with dog shit.
Things were different then. People drove around our rural back roads expecting—dare I say even hoping?—for this sort of thing around Halloween. It was fun. Sport. Really, we shouldn’t have done it. I know that now. It was dangerous. Someone could have been hurt or killed. They weren’t, but they could have been.
Of course, I have to put up the disclaimer that none of these activities are recommended, even though it’s unlikely that children today could put their phones down long enough to make a dummy or stake out a cornfield… So, here’s my disclaimer: DON’T DO ANY OF THIS STUFF. It’s not only dangerous, but illegal. Roads are busier now, and cars are faster. You could kill someone, and nobody—NOBODY—wants that.