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I remember it like it was yesterday. You’re eight years old in 1960, living in East Hartford, Connecticut, and Halloween is only a few days away. No time for misstep now, on the threshold of this, the second most important holiday (next to Christmas) of the kid year. The prize – a full year’s supply of free candy just begging to be collected by the right, enterprising youngster. The pitfall – having a wrong strategy for the night. It’s time to focus because this will take perfect organization.

It has taken years to reach this point. The first few Halloweens were a waste. Not your fault, you just didn’t understand the magnitude of the moment. You let your parents dress you in a bunny outfit or as Humpty Dumpty or some other such nonsense. Cute yes, but far too bulky for efficient candy gathering. And your age worked against you too. At four or five you were too young to navigate the streets alone. Mom or Dad had to “help” you, and even worse, sometimes Grandma or Grandpa tagged along. Everyone knows how impossibly slow adults can be, having to stop and talk with every neighbor on the route. Between the bulky costume and your adult chaperones, a kid was lucky to even finish his own street.

But you’re eight years old now and much wiser. You’ve made plans well in advance this time. You’ve convinced your parents that they can take it easy at home because you’ll be trick-or-treating with all your buddies. They don’t have to worry about you because there’s safety in numbers. You’ve promised that you’ll be “treating” more than “tricking”. You won’t throw eggs, TP the trees or wax up any windows. That’d just slow you down anyway. You’ll be on your best behavior, just collecting candy. Now for the right costume. Anything with a big mask or bulky outfit is out – can’t see what you’re doing and certainly can’t run in anything restrictive. Hobo seems about right, just throw on some old clothes and put a little charcoal on your face and you’re ready to go. Don’t forget the right tools for the job – sneakers, or better yet your baseball cleats for traction, and of course a pillow case. Those little plastic jack-o-lanterns don’t hold nearly enough candy.

The right strategy for collecting just doesn’t happen. It has to be planned. Eight-year-old boys can get pretty creative when candy is at stake. You and your buddies have it all worked out. Leave your street for last. Make a beeline for the adjoining “rich neighborhood” first. They give out the best candy there. Bypass the houses that aren’t decorated or that don’t have all their lights blazing. They aren’t fully in the spirit of the season, and if they’re home at all, will probably only give out something “healthy”. Let’s be clear, the goal is Milky Ways, peanut butter cups, Snickers, bubble gum, Hershey bars, red licorice whips (not black), wax lips and jaw breakers … and plenty of them. Now, tough as it is, you have to give a little thought to your entourage. Sure, fat Benny is great for football, but he’s not very fleet of foot. Better keep your group to just the guys who can jet. We all agree there can’t be any unnecessary talking. Just ring the bell, shout “Trick or Treat” or “Drop it in the sack, Jack”, and double time it to the next house. With a well-executed plan, everyone becomes a candy mogul in an hour and a half. Last point of business, figure out a hidey hole, maybe in the treehouse or in the garage, for half of your haul. Parents can go nuts if you bring home too much candy. They might even make you share it with your baby sister, so you’ve got to be prepared for this kind of ridiculous intervention.

So there you have it, the perfect plan for a successful Halloween. One last thing, stuff cotton in your ears before heading out the door. That way, you might not hear your parents ask that most dreaded Halloween question, “Hey son, can you take your little sister with you?”

Happy Halloween – Gary, The Fishing Guy