Cousin avenges pranksters

Bob Huber: Local Columnist

When I was a kid, Halloween was the high-water mark on the calendar of my life. Oh sure, I fiddled with Christmas to please parents, but Halloween allowed me to shake down neighbors, tip over outhouses, and remain anonymous.

Costumes were no big problem. They were made from feed
sacks, worn sheets, and old shirts. Once the metamorphosis was complete, parents couldn’t pick their own kids out of a lineup.

Madcap adventures took place on Halloween night, such as older guys mugging you for your loot and college students dumping iced water from their rooming-house windows.
My cousin Herman, who was seven years older and outweighed me by 300 pounds, sometimes accompanied me on my Halloween rounds. Using an old hay tarp, he dressed as a boxcar.

One time, after a good drenching, Herman stood with me in front of a college rooming-house, scratching his beard stubble and looking forlornly at his water-soaked, size 18 tennis shoes. When he marched into the house and queried several college students about this phenomenon, he found their answers lacking, so he launched a new Halloween wrinkle: Bust the Punkin Heads of College Wise Guys.

However, Herman had a short attention-span. By the time I was in the sixth grade, he had lost interest in beating up college students. In fact, he became one himself with a football scholarship to the local college.

This took place the same year I reached my mid-youth crisis, when I told my friend Smooth Heine, “I’m staying home this Halloween. I’m tired of getting mugged.”

“But it’s our last hurrah,” Smooth said. “Next year we’ll be in junior high, and we’ll have to gawk at girls and bob for apples. Besides, I have a secret plan.”

So I went along — I wanted one last Halloween memory before becoming an official senior citizen.

Finally the big night came. We had terrorized only a handful of houses before we ran into our first gang of bullies.
Their leader, a buffalo-shaped neanderthal named Mug Sweeney, said, “Hey, what you got in them bags?” I tried to run, but Smooth stopped me.

Turning to Mug, Smooth held out his bag of loot and said, “Here, take it.” His other hand covered his heart. “But please, let me keep the rest of my candy bar.”

“Candy bar?” Mug Sweeney asked, his eyes squinting. “Where’d you get it?”

Smooth held out the soggy remains of a Babe Ruth. “That old house with the balcony down on Twelfth Street. A college guy there said he felt bad about dumping ice water on us last year.”

Everyone knew about the smart-aleck college guys who lived in that house. In fact, rumor had it they also had a big roommate who liked to stomp anyone who whined, complained, or looked cross-eyed.

However, the last we saw of Sweeney’s gang was a blur of fists and elbows as they struggled to get there ahead of each other. We ran the other way and ditched school the next day to avoid Mug. We heard later that Mug looked for us all day. He could barely see through swollen black eyes.

You see, my cousin Herman was that college guy who lived in the house on 12th Street and stomped Halloween whiners.