Confessions Of A Halloween Vandal

Posted: Wednesday, October 14, 2009 at 12:00 am
By: Doug Lund
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I certainly hope the statute of limitations applies here because I’m about to confess to a crime from my youth that continues to haunt me more than any ghost or goblin ever could this time of year.
I’m pretty sure it was in the fall of 1959 because I had reached that awkward age of 13 which meant I was too old to go trick or treating. That was the first of many lessons I would learn in my lifetime that getting older wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be.  
Anyway, my farm cousin was in town and he was none too pleased either about being shut off from the joys of going door to door extorting candy. So we conjured up a plan to hit the streets and wreak havoc around town. If we can’t have treats..we said…we’re going to pull a few Halloween tricks.  Well, our bravado was strong until I sneaked up to a neighbor’s shed in the alley. There were some boards stacked up against the building and a step ladder leaning against it. My plan was to carry them off and dump ‘em in a neighbor’s yard. That first foray into vandalism had my heart racing so fast I nearly fainted. I managed to toss a couple boards onto a nearby lawn and knock the ladder down when the back porch light came on and we exploded into a dead run fully expecting a load of buckshot in our backsides.
Then, just as quickly as it came, the terror left and we proceeded to work our way downtown to see if we could gang up with other pubescent teens roving the streets looking to make trouble.  Sure enough, there were about 10 kids hanging out in front of the drug store and even though most of them were older, we were invited to tag along on their mission of mayhem.
Anything that wasn’t fastened down or locked up was fair game to be tossed onto Kasan Avenue..our main street. It was littered for three blocks with garbage barrels, lawn chairs, bicycles, flower pots and firewood. Every time we’d see the town cop, Ferman Feeney, we’d take off running in different directions only to rendezvous back at the drug store..act as if nothing had happened and plan another raid.  Earlier, one of the guys  put a bag of poop on the front step of Mr. Holtz..the high school agriculture teacher..set it on fire, knocked on the door. We all ran like hell hoping to see him stomp out the flame and get feces on his shoe. Mr. Holtz, however, had obviously seen that prank before and just let the bag burn. He knew who the likely suspects were and would exact his revenge when he had them in study hall the next day. (Ferman Feeney eventually got tired of being outsmarted and out run by us rotten hooligans so he started deputizing members of the local Jaycee chapter on Halloween night which dramatically reduced the crime rate.)
Being part of a gang of vandals was pretty cool, but you can only tip over so many back alley burn barrels before it gets sort of boring. That’s when we spotted Pete driving up the street in his ’49 Studebaker.
Pete lived on a farm west of town. He was three years older than us but we’d known each other all our lives so when we hollered for him to stop..he did and we piled in.
We couldn’t wait to tell him about all the evil activities we’d been up to..littering the streets, soaping windows and dodging Feeney.
Pete just laughed and shook his head. “That’s nothing.”  “When I was your age, we used to go around the country on Halloween night tipping over outhouses.”  “Now that’ll put the fear of god into ya.” He said
Whoa..that’s big time vandalism compared to our little petty offenses.
“Yeah,” I said, “ too bad nobody has outdoor cans anymore. That’d be fun.”
“Oh, there are still a few around,” Pete said, “but most of ‘em are outta town. You wanna check ‘em out?”
My mind said, good grief NO..what if we got caught? This is reform school stuff.But instead I blurted out, “heck yeah.” And we headed toward the country school just down the road from my cousin’s place.
We drove by slowly on the gravel road making sure there was nobody behind the school building guarding the biffy.
“We gotta be careful,” Pete said. “I’ve heard of people moving the privy a few feet off the hole so if a vandal approached with intentions of tipping it, he’d fall right into the pit. That’d be tough to explain to mom on wash day.”
Pete pulled his Studebaker into the driveway, shut off the lights and whispered..let’s go.
I have never been as excited and afraid at the same time as I was at that moment. We crouched down as if sneaking up on a German machine gun nest. Then Pete said, “On three…one, two, three…we all gave a mighty shove and over she went with a thud.
The dirty deed done, we flew back to the car and sped off in a cloud of dust.
The next day I was sick to my stomach at the thought of somebody having to clean up the mess we caused.
All those hours sitting in church and Sunday school..wasted.
All the hopes and dreams my parents had for their son to be a “good boy” ..dashed.
I wish now, I’d have summoned up the courage to confess my crimes right there and then..but I didn’t, of course..and it’s pretty late now. Perhaps 50 years of guilt and shame I feel each Halloween is punishment enough.

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