(it pays to have talented friends who love to write. Here's a Halloween story by my friend, Paul Tandberg)
Farmer John Bauman watched the group of trick or treaters leave. “Those may well be the last,” he thought as the taillights twinkled in the night, “but the candy is getting low. I should get some more out, just in case.”
So John went out to his woodshed to get another couple bags of candy. Why the woodshed? Well, John kept the Halloween candy out in the woodshed so that he wouldn’t be tempted to eat it all up himself before Halloween even arrived, which had come very close to happening several times. You see, the candy liked to call out to John late at night. But, once he started keeping it out in the woodshed, the calls were fainter, and the thought of having to walk all the way out to his woodshed was enough to save his Halloween candy from those late night munchings.
On the way to his woodshed, John walked past his jack-o-lanterns. His many jack-o-lanterns. How many? Well, John knew. There were 87 of them this year. Farmer John was famous for his pumpkins. He grew them wherever he could. And every fall, his little farm would turn orange. And every Halloween, he would give pumpkins away to anyone that needed one or just wanted one. And those that were left over he would carve into Jack-O-Lanterns, sometimes a hundred or more, and place them all around his yard. It was a lot of work, but not for Farmer John, because John loved his pumpkins and he believed every pumpkin should have a chance to be a Jack-O-Lantern.
Well, when John entered his woodshed to get the last of the candy he had hidden from himself, he looked around for his ladder, for, of course, he had put the candy on a high shelf to make it purposefully hard to get at. But he didn’t see his ladder anywhere. Then he remembered. He had left the ladder back at the house. He had been using it to put on the storm windows, because the weatherman had said that an early winter storm was coming and the next couple days were supposed to be very, very cold.
But, John didn't want to walk all the back to his house for the ladder. There was no need for that, he thought, no need at all. John decided he could just crawl up on the firewood he had stacked against the wall. So he did. But just as he had reached the top and was reaching for the candy, a log rolled out from under his foot, and Farmer John lost his balance and fell. And the entire pile of logs came tumbling down on top of him.
When John came to, he tried to move, and realized he couldn’t budge no matter how hard he tried. Not an arm, not a leg. Nothing. He was pinned helpless by the toppled firewood. "Oh you dummy", he thought. "Couldn't go and get the ladder, no, that was too much trouble. Dummy!" Then he felt a cold wind blowing into the shed. And he could hear it whistle in the trees.
That wasn't good. The winter storm was predicted to be a fierce one. And if it got as cold as the weatherman said it was going to get, well, that really wasn't good, not at all. John pushed again at the logs, he pushed as hard and as long as he could push, but nothing budged.
Then John began to slip from disgust into a cold realization. You see, John lived alone, and he knew it could be a several days before anyone would think to come check on him. And if it got as cold as the weatherman said it was going to get, well, that would be a couple days too late.
Even though he knew no one could hear him against the wind and the miles, John began to shout for help, again and again, as loud as he could. But John was old and the wood was heavy, and his yells grew weaker. And Farmer John could feel himself slipping away. “Now you’ve done it, you old fool, now you have really gone and done it. This is not good, not good at all. Not good …”
And John's eyes began to close and darken, but before they did, he thought he saw something. He wasn’t sure, but he thought he saw one of his pumpkins roll up to the door of the shed and look in on him.
"What the heck..." and then John passed out.
Meanwhile, back in town, the firemen were cleaning up after the Halloween party they had thrown for the kids when the phone rang. Jim answered the phone, and then shouted to the others.
“That was Alice Martin, and she said she saw flashes of light coming from Farmer John’s place. She said it didn’t look like a fire, but she wasn’t sure what else it could be. She just saw bright flashing lights, over and over. John, Pete, let's take the pumper and roll.
When the firemen arrived at Farmer John’s place, they saw what looked to be a hundred jack-o-lanterns glittering all around the house. But they saw no fire. Everything was fine.
“Aw, Alice just saw all these jack-o-lanterns, that’s all. She’s getting a little dingy, bless her, or maybe she's nipping her recipe bottle again. Who knows. Call the others, there is nothing here. Let's all head home.”
“Wait “ said Jim, “shouldn’t we maybe check on John, as long as we're here?”
“It’s past 11. The lights are off. He ‘s probably asleep. There’s nothing going on here. Just all these pumpkins. Sheesh, I’ve never seen anything like it. That John is something. But, no, let’s just go.”
And the firemen walked past all the jack-o-lanterns, got back into their truck, and drove away, drove away with John left behind alone and trapped in his woodshed.
But, just as the Firemen were turning onto the main road back to town, their mirrors were filled with a bright flash of light. They turned around and saw Farmer John's place just erupting with strobing lights, like lightning, except they were flashing from the ground to the sky.
“What the heck... Turn, turn around. What the heck is going on!”
But when they reached John's yard, they saw no flashing lights. All was still and quiet. And they stood puzzled and confused, until Jim said, “What the ...? Look at that! Look! Those pumpkins. Were all those pumpkins over there before? They couldn’t have been. Look!”
And the fireman saw close to a hundred jack-o-lanterns, all tightly circled around the old woodshed. “There is something going on over by that old shed. Those pumpkins weren’t there before.”
And as the men watched, a pumpkin began to wiggle and roll aside. Then another, and another, until there was a path, a path between the pumpkins leading right up to the door of the old shed.
The stunned fireman followed the path. "Oh my god! Look, it’s John! Pinned under the firewood”
The firemen threw the wood aside and pulled Farmer John out to safety. He was cold and shaken, but he was all right. The firemen walked Farmer John back to his house. And as they did, they almost started to tell him about the strange flashing lights. Almost. But as soon as one started to try, he stopped, for how do you tell such a thing?
"Oh, am I glad you guys came" said Farmer John. "How did you.., what made you think to check on me?"
"Um..., a hunch? Um, and Alice thought she saw something. And, uh, well, we just thought we would check. It was a quiet night."
Farmer John just laughed. “Well, whatever it was, you fellows sure saved my bacon. Here, have some of this candy before I eat it all.”
The firemen stood in silence. Something very strange had happened, but what? Whatever it was, it was a good thing it had happened. Very good. They looked at John. And they looked at all the twinkling pumpkins that were now, once again, gathered around his house. And slowly, each began to just shake their heads and smile. And they took some candy. There was nothing else to be done.
“Well, you take care now, John. No more of this crawling around on woodpiles, you hear?” And the firemen walked back to their truck and drove off, each silent in his own thoughts. Each with their own smile.
At his kitchen table, Farmer John had a smile, too. A smile, and some tea and cookies. And just before he went to bed, Farmer John Bauman put down his cup of tea and walked outside. The twinkling jack-o-lanterns were gathered protectively around his house, warming the cold night air. John's smile got a little bigger. “Thanks, guys. Thanks.”
Then Farmer John went back into his house and tucked himself in safe against the night.