Monday, January 1, 2007
On October 30, 1956 I was seven years old and living in a small southern Indiana town named Oolitic. Usually a very placid burg. Oolitic was under a dark cloud of what was assumed to be abductions of three preschool children. The chief suspect was a grizzly old bachelor that we lovingly called 'old man Webster'. All three kids had been last seen around his dilapidated old Victorian. He had been questioned repeatedly by the local gendarmes but to no avail. He had already been shunned for his irrascibility and now there was an expansive 'no fly zone' around his abode.
The town was thrown into spiritual stasis. When the sun went down the children were locked up tight; an unusual event in those days. I decided that if anybody deserved a Halloween prank it had to be "old man Webster'. After my parents went to bed I sneaked out of my bedroom window with one of my mother's large laundry bags. My plan was to dig up the old man's potatoes and then to fill in the hole as if nothing had ever happened. When he decided to get his potatoes there would be none. Missing. Just like the children.
I finally arrived at his house; scared out of my mind but determined to carry out my plan. I forgot my flashlight but slowly figured out where to dig and got to work. Eventually I unearthed the spuds, hastily threw them in the bag and replaced the dirt. I was quite pleased with my efforts and dragged my bounty home. Unfortunately, my father was waiting for me on the porch with his arms folded- a stance that promised serious discipline. I told him what I had done and waited for my punishment. That never happened because my father opened the bag and I saw under the porch light what my prank had uncovered. They were potatoes alright, but they were shaped like the heads of the missing children. My father made me swear on a bible to never, ever mention this to anybody and told me to go to bed.
As I looked at the almost full moon outside my bedroom window, I heard my father on the telephone talking to the town marshall and my Uncle Harold. He then left the house around midnight, returning around 3:00 am. I have no idea what happened in that early morning of Halloween but I am sure of three things:
1. Old man Webster was never seen again.
2. His house burned to the ground a week later.
3. Since that time, I have NEVER eaten potatoes.
Love me do,