Wittier Word Weavers

Writers' Club of Whittier


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Has Anyone Warned Them About Halloween?

When we first moved to our house, the one WE owned, it was an adventure in learning all sorts of new things. We learned all about homeowner’s insurance, how to shut off the gas in case of an earthquake and, most importantly, what to expect during Halloween.

No, really. When we were first married and living in a rental for the first couple of years, we got maybe 4 or 5 kids on Halloween— tops. And we really didn’t decorate that much, since there weren’t that many trick or treaters.
September rolled around after we’d moved to our new place and we were at a neighborhood get together. We were talking about the latest neighborhood news when one of our neighbors said, “Hey, has anyone warned them about Halloween?” The hubby and I looked at each other and then to our new neighbors.

“Why, do you guys have problems on Halloween?” I asked.

“Oh no, no. Well, I guess it depends on what you would call ‘problems’.”

Another neighbor chimed in, “Oh, it’s just that we get a lot of kids on Halloween.”

Relieved, I said, “Oh, ok. So how many do you usually get? Like 50 or something?”

Apparently, I said something incredibly funny because everyone laughed.

The first neighbor responded, “Well, we counted the kids we had last year. It was around 600 or so.”

“WHAT?!” But then I thought to myself, “Oh that’s ridiculous, they’re just messing with the newbies.“ Yeah, that’s pretty funny,” I said, with just a hint of sarcasm.

“Nope. No joke. 600 last year. So make sure you buy enough candy.”

The hubby and I looked around at their faces and it didn’t SEEM like they were joking.

That night, he and I were discussing the conversation. “Do you really think they had that many kids or are they just pulling our leg?” I asked. The hubby’s attitude was “Let’s wait and see what happens.”

“Oh sure,” I told him, “On Halloween night I’m gonna send you out for another 500 pieces of candy while I have a mob of kids at our door, waiting. That sounds like a wonderful plan.”

Later that week, I seemed to have my answer. Visiting a neighbor’s house, I saw literally a MOUNTAIN of candy, at least 3 feet high, piled on top of their dining room table.

Eyes wide, I asked, “That’s your Halloween candy?”

“Yes. Have you started getting yours?”

“I will as soon as I leave.”

Even as we went shopping for what seemed like an incredible amount of candy, I was hesitant. Who has this many kids at Halloween? I’d never heard of it. But then as the month went on, I began to see many of the houses in our neighborhood getting pretty decked out in preparation for it. Most houses were decorated head to toe with spider webs, ghosts and any other Halloween appropriate scary stuff.

One house apparently had all the talented people. They actually set up a guillotine, complete with a “body” with its head waiting to be chopped off. When you walked by, you triggered a device, which in turn, released the blade at the top of the guillotine down to the bottom and chopped off the dummy’s head. I was impressed at the craftsmanship of the neighborhood’s Halloween animatronics.

With all the house decorating and animatronics, it seemed like there was a wee bit of competitiveness there, people checking out what new things others were putting out for Halloween and who was just staying with their old standards. We had bought some new stuff, but really nothing could compare with what our neighbors had. I was in awe.

In all our prior years of Halloween, we always did the same thing.  Sat in the living room, waited for someone to ring the doorbell and then answered the door, gave the kids their candy and then went back and to wait 15 – 20 minutes for the next doorbell ring. Our first Halloween night in our new house, the little kids started coming around 4pm. However, once it became dark, the flow of kids knocking on our door became incessant to the point where as we were giving out the candy to one group, we could see the next group coming up the walkway. We finally just sat on the steps outside the house and handed out candy.

The stream of parents and kids was so steady at one point, it almost looked like a line at Disneyland! One of our neighbors came to check on us and said, “Oh yeah, we should have mentioned, you might wanna get some comfy chairs since there’s no point in being in the house. We just bring our lawn chairs out and make a night of it.” This went on for five and a half hours. FIVE AND A HALF HOURS! My butt was numb from sitting on concrete steps all that time.

The kids kept coming. We had bought 650 pieces of candy and used every single one of them. We ended up having to turn kids away, saying “We’re all out of candy” and hoping we didn’t get “tricked.” What a night! Over 650 kids for our first Halloween in our new house. The hubby and I were exhausted after we got done. His advice? “Time to move. Especially if we have to do THIS every year.” Many years later we still haven’t moved, but the number of kids on Halloween has increased…last year one of our neighbors counted 1400 for that particular night.

It’s getting close, so time to start getting ready for the Halloween crowd!


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Oy yoy — Coyote!

Coyote_by_Rebecca_Richardson

Coyote by Rebecca Richardson

Coyotes have taken over our neighborhood – again.

Some say the coyotes were here first and that we should move if we don’t like it. Others offer to loan us a gun.

We are not going to move after 40 years of peaceful coexistence with neighborhood cats, dogs, ants, rabbits, squirrels, raccoons, skunks, opossum, deer and — yes, even coyotes. We are also not interested in nor are we trained with guns or poison.  Coyotes can move at lightning speed and will flash from view before I can grab my camera, let alone aim a gun. Anyway, what would I do with the carcass? More to my point, the gun solution is illegal.

Coyotes leave yellowed traffic paths in our ground cover, dead areas on the hillside where they camp and urinate, and dying potted plants where they repeatedly chew plastic watering tubes.

My husband and I started with moderate strategies: he patched gaps in the fence and altered our night time watering schedule to random, unpredictable times. I rubbed hot pepper sauce on plastic watering tubes to discourage coyotes chewing. Don installed motion-sensor lights on all sides of the house. These attempts helped, but after several power outages in our area, Don tired of having to repeatedly reset the lights and the timers. Soon sprinklers washed off the hot sauce.

Every day, we encountered canis latrans fecal droppings on the driveway, prompting a Morning Poop Patrol before backing our car out of its garage. We have no pets but we do have visiting grandchildren. It motivates us to stay indoors, especially after the neighbors lost all their cats.

Just when we thought the invasion might be ebbing, we noticed our morning newspaper was missing: pulled from its plastic bag and strewn down into the gully across the street. The advertising section was left in the bag, so we joked about having literate coyotes, accent on litter. I even spotted a coyote trotting down the driveway to meet the newspaper deliveryman. Pre-dawn “coyote chatter” (more yipping than yelping) led my husband to comment they were probably arguing over the sports section.

They jumped the back fence
like dolphins performing at Sea World…

So, even after mothballs, hot sauce, surprise watering rotations, security lights and loud noises, coyotes once again prowl the property. This morning we scared off five of them. They jumped the back fence like dolphins performing at Sea World, then our neighbor turned on his light and yelled “Hey! Get out of here!” The pack jumped back into our yard and ran out the front.

The good news is that we are safely ensconced indoors and I can still enjoy my morning paper – if I get to it before the coyotes do.

This article appeared in the Gateway Register, April 2014. Barber is a retired teacher who grew up with dogs and Road Runner cartoons.