Our family has a a twisted sense of humor about psychologically screwing with kids. Our parents took turns alternately filling our heads with outrageous lies and scaring the shit out of us. I was twelve when I realized that spaghetti does not in fact grow on trees.
It was a beautiful, crisp fall day when mom took MILK and Whiskey to the Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Festival. We ate miniature pumpkin pies while surrounded by your typical, Rockwellian fall wonderland. There may have been a hay ride, some face painting, definitely some hot cider. Just good clean family fun. But is that ever enough for our family? No. It is not.
On the way home we stopped at a pumpkin patch to pick out our jack-o-lanterns for Halloween. MILK and I scampered about with our adorably terrible early-80’s home haircuts and clothes. As we worked through the pumpkin patch, hefting and rejecting squash, we got ever closer to a large scarecrow that was slumped against some hay bales.
“Hey kids,” mom said, “go sit on the scarecrow so I can take a picture!” She flashed a smile, “But be careful not to wake him up!”
“haha, ok,” Milk said, eyes sparkling naively as she skipped over to the prop.
Now MILK couldn’t have been more than five or six, but by this point in my childhood I should have known better than to blindly trust our mom.
“Scootch closer,” mom waved, readying her camera. As we positioned ourselves for the photo, THE SCARECROW CAME TO LIFE. That pumpkin headed asshole roared and grabbed hold of the two small children in his lap. Now I was scared for a second or two but quickly realized it was a guy in a scarecrow suit, (which in retrospect is probably a red flag). I’m a couple of years older than MILK, so I was battle hardened.
MILK, however, lost her shit.
You’ve never seen a little girl this terrified outside of Drew Barrymore in ET. She punched the scarecrow repeatedly, screaming bloody murder. You could smell the burned rubber Keds soles from her peeling out across the pumpkin patch. Our mom scooped her up and tried to console her, or at least muffle her screams – other parents were starting to judge. Then the scarecrow came over to apologize. MILK had her face buried in our mom’s perm and came up for air just in time to see her worst nightmare lurching toward her.
The sound that came out of her is still known at The Halfmoon Bay Pumpkin Festival as “the shriek.” Dogs cowered under cars, bats in caves ten miles away woke up, and everyone stared as my mom carried the flailing and shrieking little girl back to her car.
Had MILK gotten loose, I have no doubt she would have left us for dead and booked it straight into the surrounding woods. It was clear enough that her so-called mom wasn’t able to protect her from the horror risen from the patch. That woman didn’t even have enough sense to run for her life. She would just have to fend for herself in the mountains. I like to think, a few years down the line, an older, harder little girl would have wandered back into the pumpkin patch, still wearing those WonderWoman underoos, ready to exact her revenge.
There is still a lively debate as to whether or not mom knew that the scarecrow was a guy in a suit and not a prop. (mom knew)