, Newburyport, MA


November 6, 2009

A prank rooted in cabbages


Proper celebration of Cabbage Stump Night was to make a stealthy advance upon a peaceful household, beat the bejabbers out of the side of the house or the front door and skedaddle as fast as you could in the getaway. The alternative to escape was to receive a belt in the behind from the householder.

There would be no damage to the house because of the softness of the root, but the racket inside the house was a shock wave.

Those of my seriously advanced age will recall tales from their elders of even more risky Halloween intrusions on the tranquility of the season by such extravagances as the dismemberment of farm wagons — all, of course, being the works of the risen dead.

My father told me his tale of such an ambitious enterprise that resulted in the removing of the wheels of a wagon, but that others had reconstructed one on the top of a barn. He was a teetotaler all his life but a grand story teller, and I have come to believe there must have been a different kind of jugged spirits about in the telling by others.

Happily, we have come to a more sedate time, but trick or treat is not without its disappointments, and not just for the young getting something other than the candy of their dreaming. There are homes with those ready and waiting with baskets of it for those who never appear.

But let us be thankful. There will always be children filled with hopes and dreams. It's really what keeps those of us fortunate either to have them or to greet them but linked to our own earlier time by memory, and that is a very special kind of nourishment.


Bill Plante is former executive editor of Essex County Newspapers. His e-mail address is

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