Friday, October 27, 2006

Halloween Hooliganism

The Kanawha County sheriff's department is on high alert, beginning tonight, for vandals who want to get an early start on Halloween hijinx. According to a deputy speaking on morning radio news shows they will be paying special attention to places known to have problems in the past, namely Cabin Creek, Campbell's Creek and Witcher Creek.

My wife grew up in an eastern Kanawha County "creek" community (holler) and when we were dating I got my first taste of this culture of silliness. Every year in mid-October the first tell-tale signs of the impending terror would appear as tree limbs were collected from the hillsides and placed strategically beside the road. These limbs would be the instruments of mischief and every night they would systematically be placed across the road to block traffic while the mischief makers hid in the woods and sneered or snickered as grumbling motorists had to get out or their cars to remove the blockade. As soon as the cars passed, the hooligans would run down and block the road for the next car. And so it would go from mid-October until All Hallows Eve when the ante was upped considerably when a full size tree would be cut down and dropped across the road, taking down the power and phone lines as it fell. Every year this all played out exactly the same way.

Residents of the hollow knew they had to get home before dark on Halloween night or they wouldn't get home at all. Once the tree fell there would be not traffic moving up or down the creek until late in night or early the next morning when the power company would come and remove the tree and repair their lines.

Being an outsider I could never understand why the people of the community allowed this to happen year after year. It seemed to me that an ad-hoc neighborhood watch could be posted at the site of the tree-felling (it was in the exact same spot every year) and prevent this from happening. But after several years I found out why the responsible adults didn't intervene: They were part of the hooligan squad. Yes, I found out that it was a family affair, that the reason this had been going on so many years was that it was a tradition that had been passed down from father to son and from mother to daughter. On Halloween there were young and old alike who went to this spot to cut down this tree to block themselves in for the night. Family values, I guess.

I was, and remain to this day, incredulous about the way these people endanger their friends and neighbors by blocking the road and cutting off power to the entire community. If a house where to catch fire or someone in the community would experience a medical emergency it would be impossible for emergency vehicles to reach them. It amazes me further that parents would train their children in the art of road blocking and encourage them to do it.

Go figure.

1 comment:

Becky said...

I grew up with that, too. I never did quite understand it. Where I live now (Roane County) the big thing is "corning." You get big bags of the dried corn like you feed to livestock, hide on a hillside or overpass, then dump it onto cars that drive below. It makes a horrid racket when you're in the car, obscures your vision, and could very easily cause a wreck.

I sound like alittle old lady whining about troubled youth, but pranks shouldn't result in anybody getting hurt!