The Halloween Story That Never Was

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(Editor’s Note: Reaching way back to 2010 for his one in deference to the scary night coming up. Marcos, long-retired from column duties now, was one of our best. RC)

It’s one of those Saturday nights when I’m sitting before my computer thinking about a topic that just might be interesting to the hordes of readers that rush to their computers early, the first Sunday morning of the month, eager to lay their eyes on my literary gems. I actually had a column planned for this Sunday. I even did some preliminary research. It was to be another belated Halloween message dealing with traditional folk themes—a follow-up of sorts to the four eerie tales I shared last year at this time. Unfortunately, I’m just not in the mood to put my mind and spirit in the dark place necessary to write such a morose piece. I’m in far to good a mood.

I’ve spent most of the day outside winterizing the house and doing the fall pruning. This is my favorite time of year and I don’t mind the work. The slight overcast skies are a welcome relief to our long, withering Valley summers. The huge silver maple tree behind my house is a thirty-foot tower of yellow leaves. The Chinese Pistches form a gauntlet of red and orange down our lengthy street. In a week, I’ll be working outside wearing a sweatshirt. There’s a hint of acrid smoke in the air from the ag burning. It’s an autumn ritual in the valley. Farmers create enormous piles of brush from the clippings of the various nut trees, douse them with kerosene and set them ablaze. Growing-up in the Bay Area, I was unaccustomed to real seasonal changes. Soon we’ll be seeing frost on the cars and lawns, lending a sense of urgency to the outdoor work that keeps me busy this weekend. Tomorrow I’ll deal with the wood pile, caulking and some more pruning.

This is truly my favorite time of year for many reasons beyond the seasonal changes. With Thanksgiving coming up, I’m reminded of the great many blessings in America that have been our inheritance. Thanksgiving is also a celebration of my family’s colonial legacy, for my ancestors came over on the Mayflower and 155 years later fought on Bunker (Breed’s) Hill. I’ve just finished teaching my eighth graders about the American Revolution and now we’re studying the Constitution. I love teaching the kids about the brave shopkeepers, millers, and farmers who left home and farm to sacrifice life and limb so that their progeny—us—might live in liberty. For twenty years I’ve been teaching the wonderfully powerful words of our national credo:

“…that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.”

There you have it! In one fell swoop, the hierarchical structure of social/political systems throughout the world and history were turned upside down. Within fifty years, every colony in the western hemisphere, inspired by America, threw of their own colonial shackles. The Declaration of Independence was the death knell to functional monarchies everywhere. Forevermore, every American would be born knowing that they are destined to be free and that the government is theirs to alter (or abolish!). Who couldn’t get excited about autumn when you get to teach this kind of stuff!

Yup, I couldn’t have written my original column today. Instead, I’m enjoying a nice glass of one of California’s seasonal fruits (another product of autumn), listening to some old time, reflecting on the last golden rays of sun before winter, and exhausted by a good day of honest, hard work. Soon the December fog will well up from the earth. I’ll soon be waxing the cross-country skis that have been leaning against the wall in my study all summer long. Maybe when the winter blues begin to sink in, my mood will be in a sufficiently dreary funk to write that story, but until that time, I hope all of you are enjoying this golden, mellow time of year that we call fall. .

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