Focus Column: Halloween means fall on the North Fork

Many years ago Halloween meant something entirely different from the Halloween we know today. It was a time when ignorance and suspicion ruled. It was a period of ghosts and goblins, darkness and shadows —  a far cry from the joys of young people who dress up for Halloween today.

Having three children and four grandchildren who went through this period of make-believe, we remember well when they donned their garb of pirates, space walkers, ballerinas, etc. along with masks and painted faces. Then they’d go knocking at your door calling, “Trick or treat!”

Today our Halloween youngsters, including our four great-grandchildren, will dress up in their various costumes of firemen, witches, musketeers and even lobsters and parade with their friends down Main Street and show off their special Halloween attire.

Then there’s the prelude to this special time of the year when the family heads out to get those special pumpkins. Some will paint faces on them, others will cut out eyes, nose and mouth to put a candle inside. Some will just put their pumpkin on the front porch as their part of the Halloween celebration.

This reminds me of a Halloween many years ago, when my sister and I each had our own pumpkin with its candle inside, that almost resulted in a family disaster. It came about when I called my sister over to see how much better you could see my smiling pumpkin in the darkness underneath my dad’s big overstuffed chair. Little did I realize my pumpkin’s candle not only showed up better in the darkness under the chair but also, to my surprise, its flame grew larger and larger as the fire from my candle set the chair’s stuffing on fire.

As luck would have it, the day was saved when my mother, who was doing the dishes, came to the rescue by flipping the chair over and throwing the dishpan of water — full of knives, forks and spoons — on my pumpkin and the chair. With such goings-on, I often look back and wonder how we all made it to today.

Halloween comes each autumn when the leaves start to fall. Living with trees surrounding us, we get our fill of leaves. Nevertheless, we wouldn’t want it any other way. There was a time we could all burn our leaves, but no more, and I miss that smell of burning leaves in the fall.

Think of the fun our great-grands will get when raking up a pile of leaves and then running and jumping into them, and the squeals we’ll hear as they get covered in leaves, then jump out and start all over again.

While here at our home, they love to pick the hickory nuts and visit the cows and chickens and, yes, see the newest little chick that just hatched out. Children love to visit the local farms and search for their favorite pumpkin or feed the sheep, goats and geese. They can ride through the apple orchards and pick their own apples, visit the corn mazes — all part of the country fall scene we all enjoy here on the North Fork.

A Stirring of the Leaves
The sun had slipped away unnoticed
A stillness crept through the woods;
Each blackened tree could feel its presence,
It seemed as if the world stood still — waiting.
All the birds had left their busy day,
Each had gone to its secret place for the night.
The tiger of the woods slipped in on deadly silent wings,
his yellow eyes ever searching.
Three deer mice curled up in their warm little nest,
One lifted its head to sniff the air and then return to sleep.
The call of winter played out its bag of tricks,
Nothing was spared.
Like a sleeping giant the wind awoke
And the last leaf of the white oak fell.
Winter had arrived.

—Paul Stoutenburgh