Halloween is here again. That time of year where normally “sane” people can take on a new persona, at least for a night, without concern.
Growing up in Billings in the 1960s, Halloween was to my fellow kids, a chance to roam the streets in search of the ultimate sugar high while dressed in funny, “scary,” outrageous or pathetic costumes.
Most often, the boys and I would dress as hobos, or “bums,” a costume that no doubt today would be frowned upon by the PC crowd. Simple costume really, an old hat, beat up coat and for some a chance to smear petroleum jelly on the face followed by a coating of coffee grounds to simulate a few days growth of beard.
A pillow case tied to stick to represent the hobo’s belongings bag and it was off to the races. We would head out just as darkness fell and run from house to house, often covering miles, literally, in our quest for sweets.
By nights’ end, we had a pillow case full of candy, most of which was confiscated by mom or fad when we got home.
Kids of higher financial means would walk in groups, their shiny store-bought costumes drawing oohs and ahhs from the folks who answered their doorbells.
As time went on and trick-or-treating became a thing for the little fellas, the costumes became for the “sophisticated.”
Either that or we were sliding back into some ancient time of dumbness, but what the heck, a treat was still the reward.
One year, at the urging of my older brother, I was convinced to be Pumpkin Man. Yup, I actually stuck my head inside a carved pumpkin, an experience that haunted me for years. It takes several showers and years of therapy to get pumpkin innards off the hair and out of the mind…or so I’ve heard.
One year for a teenage dance/costume party, I had the bright idea of going as an ear of corn. Green sweat pants, a yellow shirt with egg cartons stuffed inside the shirt to portray the individual corn kernels, all topped by a green stocking cap with green paper leaves stapled atop the hat.
Once again a haunting experience, this time because of the total flop it was. The only person who came close to guessing what I was said I looked like an exploding pea pod.
In the years to adulthood (assuming I ever reached “adulthood”), finding a cool costume became a greater challenge.
One year during my heavy weight-lifting years, I painted my entire body green, blackened my eyebrows, put on an undersized T-shirt and a shortened pair of old blue jeans.
Even slicked back my hair and tore the shirt and jeans for added affect. I’m just a shade under 6-5 in height, surely everyone will recognize one of America’s fiercest comic book heros?! Nope. Almost everyone I encountered said “Hey, the Jolly Green Giant, awesome”.
That’s the Incredible Hulk to you dude! More therapy.
To my kids’ delight and my ex-wife’s horror, I once showed up at my daughters’ elementary school, once again body painted from head to toe, this time in yellow.
I found white gloves that fit my giant hands and actually bought a square sponge-shaped body suit, making me SpongeBob on steroids. Not really steroids, but that’s what one parent blurted out when I walked by with the kids during the annual Halloween costume parade. The ex could be heard telling those nearby, “I don’t know him.”
But the grandest, and strangely most simple costume of them all was the one I donned while in college. It was a cold, rainy Halloween in Bozeman and I had the flu. I was shifting in and out of the hot and cold deal, slippers on and my big posterior parked on a sofa. I was sick, not just sick, but leave me alone sick.
A knock on the door was not something I was going to answer. It didn’t matter.
The door flung open and in walked five very large fellows dressed in various forms of ridiculous costumes that were no doubt dictated by a college student budget.
“What the heck (I’ll use the least offense word there) are you doing Bandel,” bellowed one of the oversized humans. “I’m sick man, not going anywhere,” was my reply. “Yeah,” the all said, “well you’ve got 10 minutes to get dressed, figure out a costume or we’re going to drag you out and tell everyone you are a human sled.”
They left to get adult beverages but I knew how many of them there were and that they’d be back.
Dizzy, nauseous and faint, I struggled to get dressed. I was so sick the denim in my blue jeans felt heavy and I didn’t button my shirt properly.
I threw on some shoes and socks and, as I heard their delicate offensive linemen voices coming back up the walk, and knowing my resistance would have been met and overcome, no doubt with the help of large amounts of duct tape, I did something I never would have imagined could have come from this brain.
On the stove was a clean sauce pan…next to it some shoe laces (hey, it was a college guys’ apartment). Without thinking, a tied the shoe laces to the handle ofthe pan, then tied the other end to my belt buckle and let the pan dangle in front of me.
“What in the heck (again, a cleaner version of the actual words used), are you?”
This was a phrase I would hear over and over again that nigh. And as the adult beverages began to ease my influenza suffering I would look at the puzzled ones who asked and reply…”I’m the guy from Neverland who saved Wendy from Captain Hook and his alligator.”
Their eyebrows would rise in stunned amazement as the identity of my character set in. Yup, that guy who never wanted to grow up.
To this day, all I can say is, as Larry the Cable Guy so eloquently put it, “Lord, forgive me for that right there and bless all the (people) in New Guinea.”
The therapy didn’t work….Happy Halloween!!
Chuck Kvelve Bandel is a reporter for the Mineral Independent and Clark Fork Valley Press. Look for his “Kvelve’s Comments” column weekly.