by Mark Blackwell

All the signs tell us autumn is here. What we didn’t already eat out of the garden is put up. The cistern has been cleaned. The leaves have performed their magic. The chimney’s been swept and the firewood stacked. And, by the time you read this, the first Halloween of the season will be over. That’s right, I said the first Halloween. The way I see it, every four years we get two days of “trick or treat.” The second comes on the first Tuesday of November. We call it Election Day. And for a lot of us, it’s kind of scary.

As a kid I used to get all excited about getting costumed up and going out to ring the doorbells of strangers. When front doors would tentatively open I would yell “Trick or treat!” with great hopes of getting what I wanted—full sized Snickers candy bars or regular size bags of M&Ms not some puny hand wrapped packet of generic confection. I also hoped that I wouldn’t get apples (we had our own orchard), raisins, and anything bland or healthy. I have the same aspirations when I go vote.

I don’t go down to the polls dressed like a pirate but I do tend to work myself up over a particular slate of candidates. I’m hoping that I get at least some Snickers or Three Musketeers bars and not get surprised by a package of out-of-date, leftover hard candy from Christmas past. And I would like to believe that if I don’t approve of the treat then I have the right to trick. But things don’t work that way. If they did the White House would have permanently soaped windows and toilet paper landscaping. I have to say that as far as voting goes the politicians get to do all the tricking and the treats are few for the working class.

As a voter I have perty consistently been tricked more than treated. After almost every election I wind up with a political goody-bag full of turnips—they’re bitter and not even all that good for you. And coating a turnip with the sugar syrup of campaign promises don’t make it a bit more desirable. So, I stew around for two or three weeks after a trip to the polls before I cheer up.
When Thanksgiving comes I know the turkey in the oven is going to be better than whatever turkey that got elected to whatever office. I only have to deal with the Thanksgiving turkey for a week, not a full four years. And that makes me thankful.

Speakin’ of Thanksgiving turkeys…my wife likes to get us one of these special pedigreed, free-range, organic, turkeys. I’m not real sure where she gets them but they price in at about forty bucks a bird. They might come from some new-age turkey spas out in California where they are fed a gourmet diet and get massaged and spend the rest of their time doing free-range meditation. I don’t see why we can’t buy a supermarket Butterball like everybody else. The turkeys we get don’t even come with a pop-up thermometer.
I know this old boy who likes to brag that he gets his Thanksgiving turkey the traditional way and it’s free. To hear him tell the story, he goes out in the woods and personally engages in hand to beak combat with one of Brown County’s homegrown Toms. In all actuality I caught him last year lurkin’ around the edge of the woods. I almost didn’t recognize him; he looked like a six foot two inch two hundred and thirty pound pile of debris carryin’ a semi-concealed shot gun.

I pulled the pickup over and said, “George, what are you doin’ under that pile of debris?” He replied, “You ain’t supposed to recognize me. And this ain’t a pile of debris, it’s a camouflage Gilley suit so the turkeys won’t notice that I’m stalkin’ ’em.” “Well,” I said, “even if I was a turkey, I think I might take notice that I was being tracked by Swamp Thing. What does a suit like that set you back, anyways?” He just stared at me outta little eye-slits in the face mask and replied proudly, “Three hundred and forty-seven dollars and ninety-nine cents—on sale. And how did you know it was me anyhow?”

That was easy, I couldn’t miss the aroma of the cigar that is a prominent and perpetual a feature of George’s physiognomy. When I mentioned it, George just shrugged and told me he stayed down wind of the flock. I then casually inquired about the price of his turkey gun. Again, George peeked outta those little eye-slits and proudly declaimed that his particular fowling piece was a semi-custom, accurate-to-a-hundred-yards, 12 gauge, dedicated, turkey gun and he got it for only five hundred and fifty dollars—on sale.

I nodded and asked what sort of state regulations had to be met to participate in a turkey safari like this. George informed me that you just have to have a State Hunting license and a Turkey license and a game-fowl habitat stamp. “And just out of curiosity, what do them things run to?”,I asked. “Uhhh, lets see, uhhh, I guess about seventeen dollars for the huntin’ license, twenty five for the turkey license, and the habitat stamp is six seventy five, sooo, that’s about forty-eight dollars and seventy-five cents”, he answered. I nodded and took my leave having calculated that George’s free turkey cost in the neighborhood of nine hundred and fifty bucks.

I vowed, then and there, not to say a word to my wife about the cost of our organic, new-age, free-range bird because workin’ the free angle on poultry could just about bankrupt me.
I trust that your Halloween was fun and Election Day gives us the politicians we need. I wish you wonderful Thanksgiving and I hope that we all have a big fat turkey on the table and not one headed for the White House. I wish you all a merry Christmas and a great visit to Brown County.