Jim Buchanan

Jim Buchanan

Halloween’s over, and that’s when you really have to watch out for the Boogerman.

That was the term we used growing up. Some people say bogieman, some say boogieman. Boogieman sounded … I dunno, lyrical, like there would be a show tune involved. But the business of bogiemen and boogermen was getting kids.

Getting got was never really defined, but it was undoubtedly something horrible. “The boogerman got that kid on Greens Creek last year,” the rumors would go. The kid was never named, the story would never be confirmed. But the kids all knew that kid had got got, and that was the end of the line, scratch one kid. When you got got by the boogerman there was no catch and release. You stayed got.

When this one particular Halloween was over, I dang near got got myself.

Before the era of Trick ’n Trunk and whatnot, kids took off in packs by themselves to bang on strangers’ doors. Of course, they were rarely actually strangers but most often neighbors you’d known your entire life. And in one of life’s ironies, we probably could’ve gone and banged on their doors any day of the year and gotten a piece of home-baked pie or cake, but those items actually had some nutritional value in the flour. On Halloween, you went for the hard stuff – highly processed, pure, uncut sugar from the big manufacturers.

So we head off in packs of two to six kids (the thought of adult escorts was deeply offensive) and canvass neighborhoods bereft of sidewalks or streetlights.

Looking back you wonder why we just didn’t lie down and draw chalk outlines around ourselves, but we were never worried about harm befalling us.

This particular Halloween we passed several other packs of kids. You always checked out competing costumes. The ghost was nearly every kid’s first costume, an old sheet with a couple of eyeholes cut out. Ghosts generally didn’t survive their first encounter with an overhanging limb or ditch, which is why it was a first costume but never a second.

Anyway, one of the groups of kids contained a cute girl who lived down the road wearing a princess mask. I thought nothing of it until we’d finished our trick-or-treating and, walking up the drive to the house, there lay a princess mask.

As my group broke up and headed to their respective homes, I saw an opportunity. I’d return the mask to its rightful owner. I’d be a hero. Romance would ensue.

So, Halloween over, I headed back into the dark, lost mask in hand.

A half-mile or so later I stood on the stoop of her parent’s house and knocked. They summoned her to the door, and I presented the mask, awaiting praise and adulation.

“Nah, here’s mine,” she said, showing off her obviously not lost mask and closing the door in my face.

Standing there, a return trip in the dark facing me, the origin of the mask in my driveway sunk in.

It was a setup.

The boogerman had tricked me, separating me from my herd of trick-or-treaters with surgical skill, and was out there in the night waiting to spring his trap. I was undoubtedly gonna get got, my future dreams and hopes reduced to being just another cautionary tale.

“You hear the boogerman got that kid on East Fork?”

“Yep. Fell for the old ‘pretty-girl’s-lost-mask’ setup.”

“Oldest trick in the book.”

Kids are just not sympathetic.

Needless to say, I didn’t get got, but that was the longest walk of my life.

Kids aren’t turned loose these days. That’s too bad, because those magical evenings produced a lot of great stories.

You don’t see packs roaming the Halloween night anymore. I suppose they’re off at organized events under the watchful eyes of parents.

That, or the boogerman got ’em all.

Buchanan is special projects manager for the Sylva Herald.