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In the end, Halloween is about a lot more than just tons of candy

It’s Monday morning here at the Tribune and I just took a quick glance at Brittany Bierle’s column, which is about Halloween.
Dang. She stole my idea.
Spoiler alert: I, too, was going to write that we need to embrace — not ridicule — this year’s Halloween celebration here in New Hampton.
Instead, I will leave it at this: If you are one of those people who constantly whine about decisions that organizations like the New Hampton Parks and Recreation Department and New Horizons-Chamber come up with, there are plenty of volunteer opportunities available.
Trust me, Chamber Director Jason Speltz and Parks and Recreation Director Rick Kramer and his staff will not turn you down.
But I’ll leave the rest to Brittany.
When I was a kid, I was a Halloween junkie.
When my parents went shopping, their idea of a treat was a box or raisins, which I know are much healthier for you than say a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup.
Halloween was the one day a year I could really stock up on candy.
I grew up in the small Minnesota town of Mapleton, population 1,307.
On Halloween nights, my friends and I hit pretty much every single house — some twice if we knew the residents were inattentive or nice enough not to mind that we stopped by twice.
In the middle of Mapleton stood a stately, Victorian-style house that was known as the “Solie Hotel,” for years before, the matriarch of the family had run a boarding house.
By the time we were kids, she lived in this giant house all alone and we rarely saw her except on Halloween.
Every single kid when there, though, because she always passed out the best caramel apples and hot apple cider.
She had just one rule: One each. In other words, no repeat offenders.
But man, those caramel apples were to die for, so one year, my good friend Brian Lester and I hatched a plan. We’d hit the Solie Hotel early, trick or treat like crazy, return to his house, change costumes and have a child’s version of a nightcap with a second caramel apple.
It was foolproof ... or so we thought.
I started the night as Batman, if I remember right, and after a quick stop at Lester’s house, I became a cowboy.
Mrs. Solie was in her 90s, and we figured there’s no way she’d noticed that we had been there before.
Heck, Brian even came up with the clever idea that I wear gloves with both costumes so my “little hand” wouldn’t be noticed.
As we walked up the sidewalk, we could almost taste that second caramel apple.
“Trick or treat,” we said.
She reached for a caramel apple and then wheeled on us.
“Nice try, Brian Lester and Bob Fenske.”
“Ah, what gave us away?”
“You have to get up pretty early in the morning to fool an wise, old woman like myself,” she responded. “But if I told you how I spotted you, you’d be able to pull a fast one on me next year.”
We dejectedly walked back down the sidewalk, not only caramel apple-less but also realizing we had wasted valuable trick-or-treating time with the costume change.
But the story has a happy — not to mention, filling — ending.
When we walked into Brian’s house the next day after school, there were six beautiful caramel apples and a note sitting on the table.
After all these years, I still remember that note almost word for word.
“I like children who show some ingenuity,” Mrs. Solie wrote, “so this is my gift to you. Now, use that ingenuity where it really matters — with your schoolwork.”
Halloween was one of my Dad’s favorite holidays.
Every year, he kept track of how many little ghosts and goblins visited his home. In the mobile home park he lived in the last 10 years of his life, he was pretty legendary for his rapport with kids on Halloween night.
When we lived in Mankato, our last stop every night was at his home, and he’d give Abby, Josh and Noah enough candy to last them through the next year’s Halloween.
And he’d always tell the kids how many children had visited his house.
A few days ago, I received one of those priceless gifts from Noah — a night in which he stayed home just to B.S. with his old man.
Somewhere in the conversation, we got to talking about Halloween and his face brightened.
“Remember that year I was the 200th kid at Grandpa’s house? That was so cool,” he said.
There are those who vehemently hate Halloween and think it’s a devil’s holiday.
Not so in this corner; instead, Halloween for me is about wise, old women teaching us life lessons and the connection a grandfather made to his grandson.


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