Halloween Hobo — Storytelling for Bullying Prevention

September 28, 2011 at 4:31 pm Leave a comment

Halloween Hobo
© Sue Black

When I was a little girl, every Halloween costume was the same as the year before. You see, my parents didn’t have a lot of money. And I had 3 brothers and 3 sisters so we couldn’t just pile in the car and go over to KMart and buy seven new costumes every year. Instead, we were told to “Go in the basement and find something to wear in the hand-me-down box”.
You know what a hand-me-down box is, right? It’s that big cardboard box down in the basement. The one overflowing with jumbled up, wrinkled clothes that your older cousins and your big brothers and sisters don’t fit into any more. Those clothes will be yours some day, as soon as you get a little bit bigger. That’s the hand-me-down box.
My brothers and sisters and I – Jeanne, Jo, Mark, John, Judy, Lenny, and Sue – we marched down into the basement, sure we’d find an awesome costume hiding in the hand-me-down box. We threw shirts and pants and skirts and dresses and underwear and socks and boots high into the air. We screamed when we saw something perfect. We ended up tugging and pulling clothes away from one another. By the time we were done, the end result was always the same as the year before. We were holding over sized shirts and worn out pants and boots with holes in the toes. The Below kids were going trick or treating as Halloween Hoboes again!
But one year was different. I was in elementary school. I knew long before Halloween came exactly what I wanted to be. You see, earlier in the year, I had found a vest in the hand-me-down box. One of my cousins had outgrown it and I was the first one to claim it out of the box. It was mine – a brown leather vest with long pieces of fringe hanging from the shoulders and all the way around the bottom. It came with a matching leather skirt. The fringes at the bottom of that skirt moved back and forth when I walked.
My little brother, Lenny, had a sheriff’s set with a silver star. I pinned that star to my vest, right over my heart. I found the holster that belonged with the sheriff’s set and buckled it low around my waist. Of course, my brothers had lost the two pistols that fit into the holster somewhere in the fields behind our house, but that didn’t matter. I ran out to the garage and got the long rope my sisters and I used for jumping. It was fraying at one end so we had knotted it so the entire rope wouldn’t unravel. I held that rope by the knot and waved it in circles over my head. I threw it back and snapped it forward. It was my whip. Then I went in search of the spurs that came with Lenny’s sheriff set.  My dad had hidden the spurs way up on a garage shelf the day he ran over them with the lawn mower. But I knew exactly where they were. So I climbed the wooden ladder and I got them down. They were just a little rusty, but I tied them around my ankles so they hung off the back of my red tennis shoes. Then I found our raccoon skin hat in a corner of the garage and put it on too.
I was ready for Halloween. I was a stagecoach driving cowgirl; I was bold and brave and not afraid of anything.
Living in a small town, we didn’t need our parents to go with us. We could trick or treat from one end of town to the other and be back before they had a chance to worry. The boys had old pillowcases to hold their candy. The girls had paper grocery bags. We were lined up by the back door ready to go – one by one we slipped into the dark night – Jeanne, Jo, Mark, John, Judy, Lenny. And then, “Sue, stop!”
It was my mom. We were living in Wisconsin. Did I mention that? Usually on October 31st in Wisconsin it’s pretty cold.
“Sue, you can’t go out with bare legs. You go upstairs and put on your corduroy pants so you don’t get sick.”
“But Mom! Cowgirls don’t wear corduroy pants under their skirts!”
She just stood at the door, one hand on her hip, and waited. I could see my brothers and sisters already knocking on the neighbor’s door. “Trick or treat!” I heard them shout. I ran upstairs as fast as I could. I slipped my forest green and navy blue plaid corduroy pants on underneath my skirt. I dashed back down the stairs, grabbed my paper grocery bag, and headed for the door. And then, “Sue, stop!”
It was my mom …. again. We were living in Wisconsin. Did I mention that? Usually on October 31st in Wisconsin it’s pretty cold and then it starts to rain. “Sue, you can’t go out without your rain coat.”
“But Mom! Cowgirls don’t wear green and blue plaid corduroy pants under their skirts and a yellow rain coat too!”
She just stood at the door, one hand on her hip, and waited. I could see my brothers and sisters already knocking on the next neighbor’s door. “Trick or treat!” I heard them shout. I ran to the back closet as fast as I could. I slipped my yellow rain coat on over my clothes. I grabbed my paper grocery bag and headed for the door. And then, “Sue, stop!”
It was my mom …. again. We were living in Wisconsin. Did I mention that? Usually on October 31st in Wisconsin it’s pretty cold, and then it starts to rain, and then it gets just a little bit colder so that the rain turns to snow. “Sue, you can’t go out without your snow boots.”
“But Mom! Cowgirls don’t wear green and blue plaid corduroy pants under their skirts, a yellow rain coat, and clunky winter boots too!”
She just stood at the door, one hand on her hip, and waited. I could see my brothers and sisters already knocking on the next neighbor’s door. “Trick or treat!” I could barely hear them shout. I ran down into the basement as fast as I could and found the box that stored our winter boots. I untied my tennis shoes and spurs and left them where they fell. Then I wedged my feet into last year’s clunky, muddy, black boots. I dashed upstairs, grabbed my paper grocery bag, and headed for the door. And then, “Sue, stop!”
It was my mom …. again. We were living in Wisconsin. Did I mention that? Usually on October 31st in Wisconsin it’s pretty cold, and then it starts to rain, and then it gets just a little bit colder so that the rain turns to snow, and then the wind begins to howl. “Sue, you can’t go out without a stocking hat on your head. Cover your ears so you don’t catch a cold.”
“But, Mom! Cowgirls don’t wear green and blue plaid corduroy pants under their skirts and yellow rain coats and ugly, clunky black boots and hats over their ears!”
She just stood at the door, one hand on her hip, and waited. I could see my brothers and sisters already knocking on the next neighbor’s door. “Trick or treat!” It sounded like a whisper; they were so far away. I ran down into the basement as fast as I could again and found the box that stored our winter hats. I took off my raccoon skin hat and yanked a navy blue stocking cap way down over my ears. I dashed upstairs, grabbed my paper grocery bag in one hand, my whip in the other, and shot out the door. “Wait for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!”
My brothers and sisters stopped under a street light. “Hurry up!” they shouted back. In the yellow light I could see them draw close, their bare heads nearly touching as they looked inside of their pillowcases and grocery bags at the candy they had already collected.
I didn’t want to skip any houses, so I stopped at the first neighbor’s door and knocked. “Trick or treat!” And then I held open my grocery bag.
“Oh look” the neighbor lady said as she dropped a candy bar into my bag, “it’s another one of the Below hoboes.”
All she could see was my outside – my green and blue plaid corduroy pants and yellow rain coat and ugly, clunky, muddy black boots and a little bit of my face because the rest of me was covered up by the navy blue stocking cap pulled low over my ears. She couldn’t see what was on the inside of me. She didn’t know I was a stagecoach driving cowgirl with a real sheriff’s badge pinned over my heart. She didn’t know I was bold, and brave, and not afraid of anything.

But I knew. And on that night I realized, that’s all that mattered.

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Entry filed under: Bullying Prevention, Just Do It -- Stories from the Field, Noodling Around -- New Stories, Teaching Artist. Tags: , , .

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