Aunt Ader’s Place held more thrills than Disneyland. Much of my large extended family gathered on a beautiful Halloween. The women packed the hysterical children into a caravan of cars and made the rounds of a dozen houses scattered about the country neighborhood. The twenty-odd children piling fighting their way out of cars must have looked like Attila and his ferocious Huns as we descended on the locals. The drivers quickly gave up the battle and headed back as sugar-fired kids battled for Tootsie Rolls in the back seats.
Ensuring the madness continued, just as evening fell, we returned to a roaring bonfire in Aunt Ader’s front yard. That was all it took to turn us into wild people, rabid in hot pursuit of each other. Eventually, we wore down and settled in to roast hot dogs and marshmallows on the open fire. Many were burned beyond redemption, but some were even eaten.
As the evening cooled and the fire burned low and we sat on logs around the fire the stories started, first the old favorites like Bloody Bones that no one really believed. As we quieted and the little ones drifted off in their parents arms, the older folks started with “true” scary stories: the time a mad-dog tried to drag Great-Aunt Bessie’s baby from a pallet in the yard, the time so long ago when a hog devoured some cousin’s neighbor’s kid who fell into the pen. Cousin Ray told a a man seeking shelter from the night who was turned away from several houses because he seemed suspicious but was eventually was taken in. The next day the family’s mutilated bodies were found and murderous man never seen again. They later learned, the same thing had happened somewhere else. The beauty of all these terrible stories was that they all happened long ago to perfectly expendable people we’d never met, so we were able to enjoy them guilt-free with no emotional investment except a tingle of horror.
Finally, the delicious tales ended and we piled into cars for a dreamless ride home, to the sound of Mother and Daddy talking low in the front seat. Of course, Mother assured us those stories were just tall-tales, not to be believed, but that didn’t hender my pleasure at all.