My Dad the Dermatologist
We had been on a hay ride earlier that day in the “Black Forest”. Daddy spent a few years in Germany during the Vietnam War and grew partial to that part of the world. He nicknamed the woods behind the house the Black Forest. When we got back from our hayride, we set up the BBQ pit and put some ribs on the grill, built a bonfire, and sat there until the sun went down.
It was particularly dark that Halloween night. My sisters, my parents, and myself all sat around the fire, and talked about the “Good Old Days” as they called it. We continued our conversation about how spooky the woods were with the coyotes howling in the distance and the rhythmic rustling in the brush. We started to tell ghost stories we had heard around scout campfires and on TV. The mood was getting rather spooky.
My sister was known throughout the area for her scream. She always had local recruiters trying to solicit her special talents in their haunted houses. Being somewhat beset by the lack of trick-or-treaters this night (we lived in a remote rural area – even for Hackberry – and always spent much more than necessary on candy), Daddy talked her into giving us a little taste of Halloween. She took the bait and let out the most blood curdling yell I had ever heard. There was a ten year gap between my older sister and myself, so the scream was especially plaguing to me and my three younger sisters. Though we lightened the conversation some, we were somewhat troubled the rest of the evening.
The mosquitoes were about to carry us off because the once raging fire was almost just smoldering now. It was time to start shutting down and getting ready to go in. We finished up our narratives and headed to the house to get some water buckets. You have to be careful in the woods to make sure the fire is completely out before you leave it. Becky, Liz, and I each grabbed a five-gallon bucket full of water to bring to Daddy.
When we got back to the first Oak tree (that’s where the fire was), Daddy was nowhere to be seen. We figured he had walked out somewhere to relieve himself, so we waited by the fire for him to get back. We were there for a good minute and didn’t see hide nor hair of him. The cadence of the crickets’ songs was frequently interrupted by coyote howls and shifty brush sounds. It got really quiet. The bush to our immediate left began rustling, so we huddled together. We heard a crack. Chills reverberated up and down our spines. In a whirlwind of motion, the biggest brush monster I had ever seen leapt out and barreled toward us, yelling and snarling as it ran. It was Daddy.
I screamed and dropped my bucket. Becky stood there motionless. Liz took off running. She was running so hard she didn’t hear Daddy start laughing. She couldn’t see where she was going so far away from the fire, but she had to get away from that man-eating brush monster. She tripped over a large tree root that was protruding out of the ground and fell, full force, face first into a huge pile of cow dung. Um… Can I interest you in a hot towel? I love my sister, but this had shaped up to be one hell of a Halloween.
It’s a good thing we were raised to be thick-skinned. Did I mention that my Dad was a Dermatologist, too?