Woster: From 700 to zero trick-or-treaters


I just realized today as we reached Halloween 2020 that last year was the first time in nearly seven decades that I had a trick or treat evening just like the ones back on the farm when I was a kid.

By that I mean no costumed ghosts and ghouls came to the door seeking Snickers bars or Baby Ruths or even Tootsie Pops. Neither did I roam any neighborhoods in a quest for as many free goodies as I could beg from homeowners, whether acquaintances or strangers. Halloween on the farm meant another night at home, not a mission to collect treats.

If Halloween was observed at all in my farm years, it was done at school during the day, not at home in the dark. In first and second grades, we’d get those thick pieces of construction paper (why is it called construction paper, anyway?), sheets of orange and black. Using that weird white grade-school paste and a pair of dull, round-nosed scissors, we’d cut shapes of black cats and witches on broomsticks and Jack-o-lanterns. My fine motor skills were late developing, so anything involving scissors and glue was a challenge. My cut-outs all resembled a mountain range that had somehow melted in the sun. There used to be a game show on television called “What’s My Line?” My construction paper projects could have been the basis for a show called something like “What the Dickens is This?”

Anyway, Halloween last year was a lot like on the farm. No visitors. We had moved to a lovely but more-than-a-little-spooky-at-night piece of riverside bottomland in Chamberlain. It’s the only occupied dwelling on the bottom, and I guess if I were a kid looking for Halloween loot, this place wouldn’t be at the top of my list of targets. At night, it looks neither inviting nor promising.

That must have been how the town kids saw it, because as far as I know, we had not a single visitor on Halloween night. Anybody who knows our history knows that for many years, when we lived in a big house on the corner across from the governor’s residence in Pierre, we were inundated with trick-or-treaters. It’s a tradition for governors to pass out treats, as many as 1,500 or so. We’d get the spill-over, and most years that amounted to 600 or 700 kids climbing our porch and ringing our bell. We nearly wore the south door off its hinges handling the callers.


We wised up in later years and simply sat on the porch. That was the result of a thing our younger son, Andy, and his friend Todd did one year when they were both in high school and decided for some reason to just hang around our place on Halloween. They streamlined the process of delivering treats by removing the screen from the storm door. That way they could just lean out the open window and greet the kids. Nancy and I did them one better then next year by pulling porch chairs to the south side, bundling up and spending the evening out in the fresh air, along with 700 or so other friendly folks.

With that as our main experience, when we moved from the big house to a townhome over in Fort Pierre, we stocked up on candy, not knowing how many kids might call. We had seven visitors – not 700, seven – and I ate candy for weeks after.

The river bottom place cut the townhome experience from 7 to zero, but Nancy is a quick learner. She had a bag of candy on hand last year. We didn’t use any of it, and since it wasn’t opened, I didn’t get to clean up what was left. For all I know, it’s in a garage closet, ready for this year. In this time of pandemic, who knows what will happen. Maybe we won’t need it again, and I’ll end up with Halloween candy as old as the energy bars I stored in my winter kit many years ago. I should probably check the “best by” date on those things now that we’ve had a snow.

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