By Norris Chambers

             Our good friend Elbert Hall casually suggested that we pull a Halloween prank on old Gene Maverick.  Clifton and I were always ready to listen to Elbert because we had schemed with him before on some very interesting and successful projects. Gene Maverick was just past middle-aged and lived alone on a small farm. He appeared to be pretty prosperous and in good health, but some considered him a little eccentric. His full decoration for Halloween consisted of a stake about four feet high placed by the side of the road with a large pumpkin impaled on the top of it. His house was about two hundred feet from the road at the edge of a clearing that was bordered by thick brush. A few hundred feet behind the thicket was his farm land. He grew watermelons, pumpkins, a few feed crops for his animals and the usual garden vegetables.

            Elbert told us that since the thick brush was on both sides and behind the house we would have a good place to hide for whatever trick we decided to pull. We quickly began making plans. Gene had a small barn a short distance east of the house and the old buggy that he used for transportation was always parked in front. The two wooden shafts on the front of the vehicle were turned all the way back and rested over the front seat. In use the shafts came down and connected to the harness on the sides of the horse with a wooden shaft on each side. These kept the horse in place and provided better control of the carriage.  A tall canvas top provided some protection from the sun and occasional rain.

            “We need to do something with the buggy,” I suggested. Elbert thought it would be good to have it move across the front to the brush on the far side. Clifton agreed and said we would have to get Mr. Maverick to come to the door while it moved. We also decided that we needed some sort of ghost to drive the buggy. A big tow sack painted white with an attached head might do the trick and look weird enough in the dark. We decided on that. Then came the problem of propelling the buggy across the front.

            This problem was quickly solved by this group of problem solvers. We would take a very long strand of old telephone wire and attach it to the front of the shaft assembly with it lowered into driving position and held up with a wire tied to the buggy top. Then the long wire would be strung along the ground across the wide space and through the thick brush. It would be curved through the thicket to the road and tied to the saddle horn of a trusty pony. One of we three would then ride slowly down the road, well out of sight from the house, and pull the horseless carriage across the front. This feat would surely mystify old Gene Maverick!

            To get his attention we would saturate a rag with kerosene, put it in a tin can and place it out by the road in front of the house ready to light at the proper time. Then just after Gene turns the light out to retire we would make a very loud and irritating noise of some sort. When he came out to see what was going on he would see the kerosene fire by the road and then the buggy would start moving across the front with the ghost in the driver’s seat and no horse between the shafts. This was our fool-proof plan.

            The great night finally arrived, as great events do. After dark and while the light in the house was still lit we quietly elevated the buggy shafts and tied and strung the wire to pull the machine. The painted sack was in place and would no doubt look weird in the dim light from the kerosene fire. I was to ride old Aleck and pull the wire that would move the buggy, Clifton was to light the kerosene and Elbert was to make the noise to get Gene’s attention. When the light went out Clifton was to light the kerosene and lie down in the ditch by the side of the road and while Elbert disappeared behind the barn I was to start the long pull between the house and the road. The lighted kerosene would be my signal to start.

            Eventually the light in the house went out and Clifton lighted the signal fire. I started old Aleck down the road and waited for the wire to tighten as the buggy crossed the yard. But the wire did not tighten. It was obvious I was not moving the buggy! Before I could worry about it I heard two loud gunshots and suddenly the whole sky was filled with exploding and sparking fire works…rockets, roman candles and other spectacular displays. I discarded the wire and headed back toward the house. Old Aleck didn’t like the idea much but he reluctantly carried me back.

            When I arrived old Gene, Clifton , Elbert and several others were in the front area putting the fireworks into use. Clifton ’s flare was still burning but everyone seemed to have their own matches. It was the most impressive fireworks display I had ever seen.

            The joke was on us. Elbert and old Gene along with a few others had conspired to pull an April fool joke on Clifton and me at Halloween time.

            As usual there is a lesson here: “The best laid plans of mice and men often go astray!” This also applies to kids trying to pull a Halloween trick.