Around the Bend: Trick-or-treaters hard to scare up
During the first week of November, you’ll notice a difference between people who live in town and people who live in the country. Those of us out in the boonies invariably have a giant bowl of leftover Halloween candy on our counters, a harsh reminder that we can’t draw a good trick-or-treat crowd.We haven’t had a single trick-or-treater in years, but every Halloween, we turn on the porch light, set out our jack-o’-lanterns and stand by the door clutching a giant candy bowl. This might be the year masses of kids decide to walk a mile to our house in total darkness, on a shoulderless road, for a Snickers bar.When it doesn’t happen, we comfort ourselves by eating the candy no one else wants.The one year we didn’t buy candy, we got burned. My sister-in-law, who was making the rounds by car, showed up with her two small children. Their expectant smiles faded when all I could find to drop into their bags were a couple packets of soy sauce and three Tic-Tacs I found in the recliner.That won’t happen again. Now I make sure we always have plenty of candy on hand, even if we have to eat it ourselves.The in-town folks have it easy; they don’t have to worry about getting stuck with leftover candy. For them, Halloween is like a joyous plague of locusts. Even though they buy pallet loads of sweets it’s never enough. Thousands of children — large groups of whom get bused in on Greyhounds from as far away as Canada — inundate their streets and seek out every last M&M.Smart families hand out candy only. It’s pointless to maintain the pretense of nutrition on Halloween; not only will children scorn treats not containing high fructose corn syrup, but anything vaguely healthy — and thus likely not factory-wrapped — must be discarded for safety reasons. That’s why kids love Halloween: It’s the one night a year when their parents say things like, “Sierra, don’t you dare touch those raisins. Here, have a Snickers.”(Naive homeowners may offer more sensible alternatives, such as apples or dental floss. But it would be cheaper for them just to hang a “Please egg my house” sign on their door.)When our kids were little, we didn’t have them trick-or-treat in town. Instead, we traveled around the county to see relatives. But Halloween fun suffers when you spend most of the evening on the road, struggling to secure three-point harnesses on children bedecked with fairy wings, capes or tails. The year my younger stepson was a spider he risked having a couple of legs amputated every time he got in or out of the car.As our kids got older, they longed to experience a real Halloween, roaming the streets as part of a throng of youngsters all jacked up on chocolate and sugar, not sitting in the back seat chanting, “Are we there yet?” Eventually, we started letting them walk through the neighborhoods in town. It’s harder work on foot, and with more competition for candy, the payouts are smaller. The boys could have collected more candy with six stops at their relatives’ houses than at 100 stops in Buttolph Acres, but they didn’t care. Nothing beats the feeling of a collective sugar rush with hordes of other children. I once heard a resident of a popular neighborhood suggest that trick-or-treating places an undue financial burden on the people who live right in town; the influx of kids from elsewhere bankrupts them, one Tootsie Roll at a time.But don’t they see how lucky they are? Out in the country, we never get to experience the crazy fun of a costumed mob swarming our yard like ants at a picnic. The three-figure investment these people make in candy pays off in the smiles of hundreds of happy, hyper children who ring their doorbell every 14 seconds for hours on end.They get to hand out free treats to tons of kids, even ones they’ve never seen before, while the rest of us have to settle for a quiet evening at home in the country, the silence broken only by the occasional crackle of a candy bar wrapper.I don’t like to complain. But somehow it just doesn’t seem fair.