Most of you know that I grew up in town. When I moved to the country I was unfamiliar with country ways. The first Halloween we spent at the farm we lived in a mobile home. I had a brand new baby, so I did not go out to purchase Halloween treats. Instead, I gathered apples from a tree at the farm and made them into cinnamon apples. They were a hit. No one complained about getting the cinnamon apples.
That was just the beginning of my homemade treats. Since we had a lot of apples, my treats frequently featured apples. One year I made apple doughnuts. I got into the spirit because my sister-in-law asked me to make her some homemade doughnuts for a party she was hosting. I just kept right on frying those doughnuts until I had enough for my own treats.
Sometimes I decorated cupcakes. One year I purchased some decorated Halloween picks to put into them. Another year I made decorated cutout cookies in the shape of pumpkins and witches. I loved to bake and cook so this was ideal for me. I also liked the idea that it was more personal than a small candy bar purchased from the store.
Now, I am not advocating that everyone jump on the bandwagon and make homemade treats this year. It is possible for those of us in the country to do it because we do not have the volume of children that those of you in the city do.
Once my children were over the baby stage I took them out in their costumes. My treats were in bags in the barn so that my husband who was doing the milking at the time could pass them out.
When you live in the country you do not go to the volume of houses either. We went to all of the neighbors that we knew. The neighbors were waiting because they could estimate how many children they would have by the Census of the neighborhood. Neighbors were really hurt if we did not make it to their place.
We learned right away that you went to the bachelor farmer last. He always handed out ice cream suckers. Little ones in costumes are not so neat when they eat those, so we made that our last stop. When you went into the barn Leroy would be surrounded by kittens waiting for their portion of fresh milk. If there did not happen to be any cats at the time he gave a whistle, and they came from all over the barn. The children enjoyed stopping to pet the cats before they got their treat.
It was a little more difficult when we moved up the road to Hickory Heights. I still took my treats to the barn, but that left the house empty. One year I came back to a porch full of eggs. The slimy stuff did not wash off the siding very well. I never did understand the egging trick - eggs were fairly expensive to waste like that.
Country children did not walk. The parents drove them - even when they were older - because the homes were too far away from each other. We probably only went to about six houses, but the children returned home with bags that were full.
Yes, trick-or-treating in the country was definitely different than how I grew up. When it was time to trick-or-treat I was thankful for the very long block where we lived. I had a lot of close neighbors. The neighbor children met and traveled from house to house together. We did not go to any house where the people who lived there would not know us. We lifted those masks over and over to greet our neighbors.
Although there were some back then who wanted to hurt children, most people were friendly. We were taught to empty our bags to have them inspected by our parents when we got home, though just to be on the safe side. We got some homemade treats, but we only accepted them from the people who we knew real well.
We never bothered teaching our children that because the homes we went to really wanted us to visit and would not harm the children. Besides, the parents were right there to supervise. My grandchildren received instruction in school about avoiding homemade things. The first time my children took their children out they ran into homemade things. The grandchildren were polite, but extremely hesitant about accepting anything homemade. The adults assured them that everything they received was safe to eat.
Many people do not like Halloween because they think of it as un-Christian. I never thought much about that. As a kid I was just thrilled to go out to collect candy. It was innocent fun. We were not consumed with witches and the like. My costumes were always something that I cobbled together from the Halloween box. I only remember having one costume that I bought in a store. That year I was a gypsy with a colorful skirt and great big earrings.
My children grew up the same way. There was a pair of bib overalls that were used to make all sorts of costumes. Many clothes that were no longer serviceable went into the costume chest. I still have many wigs and old outfits in that chest.
Halloween can be fun for adults as well as children. Everyone loves to be someone else - if only for a night. Remember that Halloween got its start as the night before All Saints' Day.
Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa.