Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Ghosts of Halloween Past

It was on a night like this, 41 years ago...
If I ever decide to write a book or even a short story, this is how it would begin.  Except the actual opening line would be  It was on a night like this, thirteen years ago...  The number thirteen adds a dramatic touch don't you think?   But this is a true story so I decided to make it as accurate as possible, considering it was a long time ago and my recollection is a little fuzzy.  Halloween, 1971.  A day that lives on in the legend of the Class of '73.  Myself and a group of my classmates, who shall remain anonymous, decided we would go out and cause a little mischief on Halloween that year.   I suppose I could mention some of their nicknames, but in the interests of good taste and due to the fact that some of the nicknames back then could now be considered - how should I put it - inappropriate?  Especially to those outside our group who didn't know the inside stories.  We certainly didn't plan on anyone getting hurt that night.  But, as we all know, stuff happens.  And I must report that, in fact, injuries did occur.

One of the guys had access to a plain old cargo van that we decided would be the perfect form of transportation for the evening and would fit in quite well with our plans.  This was no Mystery Machine by any stretch of the imagination, and we weren't anything like Shaggy, Fred, Velma or Daphne.  Well, there was one person who was kind of like Shaggy, but that's a story for later.

No, our van was more this

It did have cargo doors on one side that swung open.  That's an important detail, as you will soon find out.  We called it "The War Wagon,"  and stocked it with dozens of raw eggs.  We were all hiding in the windowless cargo area with only the driver being visible.  The plan was to pull up next to unsuspecting victims, throw the doors open and all jump out, egg our target, jump back in the van and speed off into the dark of night.  Ok, look, I'm not particularly proud of this phase in my life, but it's the kind of stuff we did back then.  If it's any consolation we only chose victims we knew.  Mostly other classmates.  We spared normal citizens from the mayhem.  Not necessarily out of kindness.  I would say it was more out of fear of arrest, conviction and possible jail time. 
So, the War Wagon was on the prowl.  After several successful surprise attacks we spotted another target.  We soon realized our mistake, but it was too late.  We had bombarded a car full of seniors.  Not senior citizens, mind you.  The kind of seniors that were on the football team, with a couple of them being rather large. And they weren't happy about this turn of events.  We took off with them in hot pursuit.  It was the driver of our van, another guy in the passenger seat and the rest of us on the floor in the back.  The Senior Deathmobile was closing in when our driver decided it would be a good move to take the chase out of town onto a gravel road in hopes of having a better chance to lose our pursuers.  As it turns out that was not a wise decision.  We had to be going at least 40 mph, on loose gravel, when we came to an intersection with only two choices - right or left.  Straight ahead meant the driver going through a fence into a field and unknown consequences.  So, he locked up the brakes and attempted a hard left turn.  We went into a skid, tipped up on two wheels, then rolled completely over with the side doors swinging open in the process.  When we came to a stop the van was upright and the two persons in the front of the vehicle were still there, but I was the only left in the back.  I was sitting upright against one side looking out the open doors across from me.  I remember my first thought and the most important thing to me as I sat there motionless was, "I lost my glasses, where are my glasses?"  (Funny how such trivial things take on such importance in a crisis situation). I felt around and found them, then crawled out to see who else survived.  The other guys were wandering around dazed and confused,  trying to find out who was hurt and make sure everyone was accounted for.  After a few minutes the consensus was that everyone was present and, unbelievably, no one was injured!  Oh, and those seniors did stop long enough to make sure nobody was seriously hurt, then they took off to avoid talking to 5-0 who were surely on their way.  We were not exactly operating in stealth mode that night so we were sure someone must have reported us by now.  We were standing there when we heard a strange sound, like someone moaning.  Then somebody called our attention to the fact that one of us was missing after all.  Man down!  We all started looking around the road and in the ditch until we found him.  It was (name withheld to protect the not-so-innocent), lying in the road about 30 feet behind us.  His leg was obviously broken.  How did we not notice him missing right away?  I still feel bad about that to this very day.  It was only a short time later we saw the vehicles with flashing red lights off in the distance headed our way.  We hoped one of them was an ambulance.  Remember, this was before cell phones so we couldn't be sure who had called it in.  Fortunately an ambulance did arrive shortly, and our friend was loaded up and taken to the hospital.  His leg was badly broken.  The van must have rolled over it as he was ejected during the crash.  That was bad enough, but we were very lucky no one was hurt more seriously or even killed. 
Those were things we did back then on Halloween.  Throw eggs, soap windows and put wooden barricades on Main Street.  Stupid things.  But we thought it was fun.  I don't know why.  We just did.  Eventually, those traditions faded away.  It seems like there is not as much mischief that goes on these days.  And that's a good thing.  Fewer people get hurt that way. 
As a final disclaimer I will say "The events depicted in this story were the acts of a bunch of dumb kids.  Do not attempt."  Also - I will disavow any responsibility should a War Wagon make an appearance anywhere in the area this year.