Five Popcorn Balls, Two Six-Guns, and One Belly Ache

I was a child of Appalachia, which is Latin for poor kid. Halloween was a wonderful time in my childhood, and the mere mention of the holiday brings a swell of memories to my heart.

My grandmother would start early in the morning, popping popcorn and making her famous popcorn balls out of sorghum molasses and sugar. She always needed a taster, and I gladly volunteered on the day before trick or treating to make sure they were a hit. (This was before there was a loss of trust with the holiday and people knew their neighbors!) I would spend the evening in popcorn-ball heaven.

I’d then go home to figure out who I was going to be that next night. Now, I don’t mean who I was going to pretend to be; but literally, this was a switch in my head. I wore more of a pretend costume rather than a spooky costume. The scariest movie I had seen at this time in my life was the Wizard of Oz! I wanted people to recognize me, because everyone knew who I was in my neighborhood. And I could never disappoint the ladies who had special treats prepared just for me. I rode on the skirttails of my grandmother, who wrote for the local newspaper. So, they knew I’d brag to her on the stuff I liked best!

I had several favorite aliases, or as my mom would call it, “hero-ween disguises.” I pulled from what I’d seen and what I knew: fireman, police officer, the cool guys who climbed the power poles and power towers, and of course, my personal favorite, the cowboy. I didn’t just wear a hat and gloves, but the boots, guns, belt—the whole cowboy enchilada. My mom was a master at turning everyday things into extraordinary costumes. Cracker boxes painted black looked just like boots, and shredded boxes looked like cowboys gloves. I was the luckiest kid in the world.

I could hardly wait for six o’clock. Not quite dark, as I was a little afraid of the dark. I always told mom I needed to get home because I didn’t want her to worry. I never had an official trick-or-treat bag or pumpkin. I found an A&P grocery bag worked best with my mom’s design touches. Off I would go on my self-designed route of treat hunting. I can still hear the neighborhood mothers saying, “Is that you, Dale?” Of which I would respond, “Yes, ma’am, but don’t tell anyone!”

At the end of the night I would come home with my A&P bag filled to the brim. I would pour everything out on our kitchen table, where my mom would inspect my bounty and ask,”Who gave you this?” and “Who gave you that?” Everything was questioned—except for the five huge popcorn balls! Like a little burglar, I would carry my bag to my room and eat ’til my belly was either full or upset! Oh, or until my dad came in to help with the popcorn balls.

I don’t mean to be nostalgic but these young days of my life helped form the man and father I would become. It would refine my philosophy of becoming known to those I wished to inspire and include in my dreams and plans—my hero-ween memories!

It’s never too late to become a hero-ween. Here are some thoughts:

Know who you are. Don’t mask yourself or your true gifts. If you aren’t being used to your full potential, plan another strategy, & turn the channel.

Be someone’s hero-ween. We are always being watched. Let others see the person you want to become.

Pour out your bag. Find a mentor or be a mentor. Help others find their gifts by sharing yours.

Finally, learn from the past to make the future better. No belly-aching, right?!

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