Halloween festivities had ended and Dad and I were cleaning up the leftover popcorn balls when a sharp, frantic knock came at the door, startling both of us. Dad answered the door and saw a man wearing a long black over coat and a black Stetson hat. He had a bloody gash on his forehead and his hands were bleeding. His shirt was ripped and covered with blood. He had the look of sheer panic as he stuttered and stammered trying to speak to us.
Dad tried to get the man to calm down and tell his story. The man kept pointing toward the corner down the street. Finally, Dad understood what the man was trying to say. The man had missed the curve and had run his car into the ditch.
Dad was familiar with people coming to the house and asking for a helping hand. There was a treacherous curve that seemed to claim a new victim at least once or twice a month. This time it was a bit different, the man appeared to be hurt pretty bad. Dad assured the man he would be right down. The last words the man said to us were “My wife!” as he turned away and slowly disappeared into the night.
Dad made a quick call into town for the ambulance, then got the tractor ready to go help the man. I jumped on the tractor with Dad as he turned the key in the ignition. The echoing putt, putt of the old tractor engine broke the eerie, foggy silence of the dark, chilly night. We rode down to the corner in a still hush as we fancied about what may be awaiting us. Dad and I could see the headlights of the car burrowing into the ground and the taillights piercing the silent night like a pair of red, angry eyes.
The tractor stuttered as Dad pulled it into position in back of the car. The loud chugging of the tractor engine was replaced with the whizzing of escaping steam from under the crippled car’s hood. The car had run nose down into the gap and was pinned underneath one of the larger trees that had been uprooted. The back end of the car was up off the ground and the tires were still spinning. We could hear the rhythmic scrape of the rear brakes as the tires turned around and around.
Dad went first to the passenger side of the car to check on the man’s wife. Her window was open and she was moving around slowly; groaning and moaning. The full moon graced the scene with a calm, soothing light and helped guide our way. The woman was bleeding from the mouth and seemed to have several other injuries.
Dad was trying to get the passenger door opened so he could help the woman out of the car. Suddenly I stood bolt upright and yelled out “DAD!” Dad just replied his drawn out “Yup” as he kept working on the door. “No, Dad look!” I pointed at the drivers seat and there was the man who had just been down to our house.
Dad briskly walked over to the other side of the car with me right on his heels. There in the driver’s seat was the very same man who had just left us. He had the same overcoat and the same Stetson hat on that he wore down to see us. His seat was pushed up so far toward the front of the car that his hands were smashed between the steering wheel and the dashboard. The post in the middle of the steering wheel was buried in the man’s chest. There was a round hole in the windshield with spider-web cracks stringing from it. His head was gashed open and it was still bleeding just like the man at the house.
Dad shook the man’s shoulders trying to wake him up and shouted at him “Here now, what are you trying here? Get up!” But there was absolutely no response. The man’s face stared blankly out at the both of us in a silent gaze. Dad shook the man again then stopped and took a step backward. I could see the blood leave Dad’s face as he stood there staring into the car. Breaking the silence of the moment was the distant echo of a whining siren and the misty flash of emergency lights. The ambulance was almost here.
The ambulance slid to a dusty stop and the attendants jumped out of the cab. Dad dryly told them “There’s someone in the passenger seat that needs your help.” They went to the passenger side, put the lady on a cart and wheeled her back to the ambulance. Then they went over to the driver’s side. They bent inside the car for just a few seconds, stood up and unzipped a big bag they kept on the cart. “Don’t worry about this one, he never had a chance.”
Dad had gotten up on the tractor and was just sitting there, staring straight ahead. “Sir, we’ve got a wrecker coming. Maybe you should let them haul this one out.” “Undo the chain boy.” That was all Dad said. I undid the chain and jumped up on the tractor with him. I didn’t even wrap the chain up or put it away. I just left it right there. The tractor lurched forward and we drove home. Dad put the tractor away and we went inside.
I asked Dad; “Was that the same guy Dad?” Dad just gave his usual response, “Yup” and went into his bedroom. I went upstairs, climbed into my pallet behind the chimney and tried to fall asleep as fast as I could. That was how our Halloween of 1959 ended, with the ultimate trick and no treat at all.