Column: On Halloween, all the things we teach our kids go out the window

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 22, 2003

It’s no wonder the kids are confused today.

We preach to them that they should not beg. We teach them that they should not be pests. We tell them that they should be proud of who they are.

Then Halloween arrives and we dress them up as superheroes, movie stars or ghouls and take them door-to-door so they can beg for candy from complete strangers.

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I guess we must be preparing them for a career in politics.

Every election, people seeking office pretend to be somebody they are not and go door-to-door begging for handouts from complete strangers.

My neighbor Crandall gives himself a haircut, which makes him scarier looking than any costume could, and then passes out dirty Q-tips to misbehaving trick-or-treaters.

He tells the kids that they are caramels on a stick.

Once he runs out of them, he passes out croutons. He doesn’t worry about tricks.

He flattens all of the tires on his truck, soaps all of his windows and toilet papers his own yard. He has a motion-activated tape recorder in his scarecrow that sings “scarecrowkie” whenever an unsuspecting youth ventures near. He carves a grotesque jack-o-lantern out of a pumpkin with a dull electric knife.

Virginia claims to have more ghosts per capita than any other state, but trick-or-treating in Minnesota isn’t without its perils.

It gets cold some years.

Some years there are few trick-or-treaters due to the bad weather and only a skeleton crew is out there begging. There have been years when every kid in my school but one went as an Eskimo.

The one who didn’t go as an Eskimo went as an electric blanket.

The snow-covered trick-or-treaters make it appear that some neighborhoods are infested with small, mobile igloos with legs.

Kids have to get a costume a number of sizes too large for them so they can wear a snowmobile suit under it.

One year I went as a pirate in an attempt to bring home a year’s supply of black licorice.

I even wore an earring-one of my mother’s. I wore it until the parrot on my shoulder ate one of my Mom’s favorite earrings.

He took part of my ear with it. The blood was a nice touch.

People went for it in a big way, thinking it was fake blood or ketchup. They provided me with such a bounty that I was able to eat so much candy that I couldn’t even look at a caramel until the next Halloween. I was supposed to go with the Invisible Man that year, but he didn’t show up.

A little trick-or-treater once rang my doorbell.

Now I don’t scare easily. I once worked nearly a week in a high school cafeteria.

I have watched negative political ads. But there is something scary about a little boy dressed up to look like Britney Spears.

He held his bag out in that expectant way and I dropped a very nice carrot into it.

I thought a carrot would be very much appreciated and certainly better than the rock-hard popcorn balls and Boston Baked Beans that were dropped into my pillowcase on an annual basis. The little male Britney Spears uttered a word that I was amazed that a child his age would use, let alone know.

I made up for the carrot by dropping a scoop of ice cream into his bag.

Kids, there is one thing you must remember about Halloween &045; and it’s the scariest part.

While you are getting out of your costume after a fruitful day of trick-or-treating and getting ready for bed, your parents are swiping some of your candy.

Inspired by Hairy Harry, the oldest kid in my class and perhaps the oldest third-grader in America, I went as a volcano one Halloween.

Harry was a hirsute fellow who once went shirtless while trick-or-treating. He told everyone that he was a mohair sweater.

Harry’s genius motivated me to put a rug over my head and puff on one of Harry’s cigars.

I knocked on one door and issued a large puff of smoke to let the homeowner know that I was a serious volcano and liable to erupt any minute if not quickly sedated with piles of goodies.

The nasty cigar made a real eruption probable.

Mr. Frobisch came to the door and saw the smoke emitting from the top of what he assumed to be a pile of old rugs.

He took me for a prank.

I remain the only third-grader in the state who was ever stomped out by Mr. Frobisch.

Happy Halloween.

(Hartland resident Al Batt’s columns appear Wednesdays and Sundays in the Tribune.)