“…Just like a ghost
You’ve been a-hauntin’ my dreams
So I’ll propose on Halloween
Love is kinda crazy with a spooky little girl like you, Spooky!” (1967/1968) Spooky. Recorded by: Classics IV (Later, The Atlanta Rhythm Section.) Composers: Instrumentals – Mike Shapiro & Harry Middlebrooks Jr. Lyrics – J.R. Cobb & Buddy Buie
What spooks you? According to the song, love can cause fear. I’ve been there. How about you? Nevertheless, love was meant to be the opposite of spooky.
After a few years as a single mother, my mom had remarried my adopted dad. They were only married for four years, but I had zero fear in my heart concerning our new lives. We have a good relationship to this very day and I love him.
Fear wasn’t in my mind at all on one hot summer day in 1966. One of my favorite things was our trips to Graham, Texas where his family resided. It was in west Texas, rich in cowboy legends and Texas pioneer history. Thick in Mesquite, cactus, and brush, the land is rugged.
Being a city boy at six years old, I loved visiting my new grandparents out in the rough and rustic hills. The new adventures filled my imagination while I ran through the back pastures with their cows and horses in my canvas PF Flyers. Usually in a cowboy hat with a toy pistol in hand, the hours would pass hiding from Comanches and Tonkawas on the warpath, while protecting the herd. (Little did I know my great-grandfather did exactly that when he settled there in the late 1860’s.)
There was a sandy creek, mostly dry, running through the pastures where I spent lots of time playing in the sandy bottoms. In my exuberance, during my brave stance fighting for the homestead, I found myself in an embarrassing, but spooky predicament. Somehow, and I do mean “somehow”, I galloped my stick-horse to the very edge of a deeper bend of the creek. By God’s grace I was able to stop my forward momentum before going over a vertical 8 foot drop down to the hard sandstone boulders in the creek bed. After catching my breath, I could see the rubber tips of my sneakers were roughly two inches from the edge. Between hard inhales, I said, “Wow! That was close, Trigger. Let’s get back to the herd where we belong.” When I turned right, I found myself trapped by a wide sprawling cactus which couldn’t be negotiated. Turning to my left, I found myself caged-in by a large amount of…well, I guess I’ll be honest here…cow poop. Yep, a good pile blocking my only escape, spreading all the way to the prickly-pears. So, there I was. I couldn’t jump over the cactus. I dared not try jumping over the pyramid of cow patties. With things looking rather dim, I turned to analyze the depth of my chances to the bottom of the creek. My fear began to build up inside. A couple of times I considered the risk of breaking an ankle with a leap over the side. Visions of starvation and coyotes filled my head as I went through a scenario where nobody would ever find me until this is all they would recover, minus the lamps.
Allow me to put some meat on the bones of my circumstance.
Of course, I know what you’re thinking. There is the thought of, “This is easy. He should’ve just walked out the way he romped in.” True, but honestly, I couldn’t figure it out at the time. You have to get in the mindset of a boy barely six years old. To this little kid, there was no way out of the patch of ground I stood on. But…someone had a different perspective.
Photo: W.R. Brown in his Sunday-go-to-meetin’-attire. (He lived in his denim overalls and straw hat.)
After about four minutes, although it felt like four hours, I began to panic in fear. Through my tears I started to scream out for help. Unfortunately I was about half a mile from the farmhouse. If someone was to hear me, it would be carried by a bird. As I launched into yelling mode, the nearby cattle just stood there gazing at me as if I just arrived from Mars. A lesson was learned. They don’t take to commands like Lassie. Not one bovine left for the farmhouse to alert the folks. I don’t recall how much time ticked by when I heard a friendly chuckle on the other side of the cactus.
While trying his best not to let out too much cackling, in a very thick Texas accent the voice asked, “Well, what’s wrong, boy?”
Quickly I turned my head toward the voice to see my Grandpa Brown standing there with a farmer’s hoe in his hands. He was a small, but rugged and weathered, kind, leprechaun-of-a-man with crystal clear light blue eyes. The long hairs growing out of his ears always impressed me. In my relief to see him, I explained my simple, but desperate situation.
He chuckled again, “Well I’ll be switched. How did you get in such a fix? Can’t you get out?”
After explaining how I boxed myself in, he began to slowly direct me through an escape route, which no doubt was the thin trail I used to get there. As it turned out, he was working his garden not too far from that spot when he heard me cry out. Poor guy. He probably came running thinking I had been bitten by a Rattlesnake. He was probably more relieved than I was.
Yes, I was embarrassed. Yes, I should’ve figured a way of escape. And yes, I worked myself up into a lather which wasn’t necessary. But that’s what needless fear can do.
Of course, there are healthy fears. You put some fear into a young child about the dangers of fire. We have a healthy fear of walking out into oncoming traffic. What? You say you have a house for sale at the base of an active volcano? My healthy fear says, no way.
Please don’t judge my six year old self too harshly. What about that time you had needless anxiety over a job interview? You may recall when you felt fear over a final exam. How about the moments just before you walked down the isle with a wedding bouquet in your trembling hands? It’s all so spooky.
Do you know how many phobias there are? I googled the titles. I was beside myself seeing the lengthy list. They are real. There’s the fear of leaving your house. There’s a fear of lettuce. There’s even a phobia involving bathtubs and shower stalls. We all would strongly appreciate you obtain counselling for that one. Spooky for some, but excessive and pointless.
‘Tis the season, says Halloween. When you think about how we lather ourselves up in fear, every day of the year, it is all about anticipation. Right? We see a darkened line of trees at night, the vanguard of a wooded area, as the mind begins to imagine what “might be” waiting for us there. Anticipation takes time, a moment or two on the clock to settle. It all surrounds what we do in those moments before our imagination cooks up the horrid. Naturally, there are those who orchestrate fright like a band of tubas.
While watching an interview with a so-called “expert” on Sasquatch, I was amazed at the push for fear in the following statement. The authoritative man set the stage like this:
“Through the years we have learned that Bigfoot is attracted to campsites, and tents specifically.”
The vomit of laughter coming out of me continued for another minute or so. Think about it. He claims to be an expert on a beast that has never been found dead, never been captured, never been scientifically verified. Zero DNA discoveries, or bone fragments. It’s an animal that’s never been in a clear, sharp video production that wasn’t shaky, or solid focused photograph, all in order to keep the enhancements from detecting a zipper on the costume. Moreover, any footage (excuse the pun) presented, the elusive Sasquatch always runs away from the photographer. Very camera-shy. Certainly, I’m no expert, but it seems to me, with all the footage thus far of a seemingly frightened beast, a human campsite is the last place it would want to invade. However, it’s fun to be afraid. Right? Unless it’s true fright from actual danger.
Here’s my view. I didn’t have to be afraid of the cactus. I didn’t need to fear the edge of the creek. I shouldn’t have been scared of the large pile of poop. (Then again, I still shy away from poop piles.) My viewpoint at the time was skewed at best. My six year old self allowed panic to overtake the true scenario. What saved me from it all was a gentle old man who saw me from a different perspective. Love popped the fear-bubble and eased my troubled mind due to my Grandpa Brown. And THAT made the difference.
When you belong to One who sees all, knows all, and dispatches guardians, the spirits of fear quake and shake.
Sometimes fear is very much like a Jack-o-lantern. Fearful exterior, but all hollow on the inside. Fearfulness isn’t heavy to push aside when lubricated nicely with fuel for the race.
‘Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you, Surely I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’ – God – Isaiah 41:10 (NAS)