by Terry Hogan

It doesn't seem that long ago -- only about 45 years ago -- that I was part of the young crowd who started trick or treating at Lake Bracken about four days before Halloween. After all, the Lake was a big geographic area to cover and we didn't want to deprive anyone of the opportunity to see our costumes and, incidentally, give us candy. Things were different then. Homeowners were ''scared'' of the ghosts and goblins at the door, the ghosts and goblins weren't scared of the treats. Homemade taffy apples, popcorn balls, and various candy was taken with complete trust, and rightfully so.

In recent years, media hyped scares of razor blades in apples, etc. have limited the celebration of the holiday to those neighbors whom one knows well, or to supervised and structured church or similar organized events. Where we live now, it is limited to one night and then within strict hours. Frankly, I feel sorry for the children who are escorted around by their parents from house to house.

Halloween was a time of fun and adventure. It was walking through darkness with your friends. It was stepping off into ditches, unseen due to the hot and stuffy rubber mask with pinholes for vision. It was a time for ducking and hiding from cars, other trick or treaters, and generally acting as a carefree kid.

I remember one year, shortly before Halloween, we found a couple of 1-gallon jugs of hand washing liquid soap that had been thrown away at ''the dump.'' Yes, it was so far back in time, that we had a dump at Lake Bracken when adults threw things away and kids drug the stuff home. We carried the jugs off and hid them in a ditch, waiting for Halloween to approach. One dark evening, we went out and retrieved the soap and poured it down the slope of an asphalt road by the ''Saluda Fill.'' We then hid behind trees and waited for cars to slip and slide as they tried to climb the hill. Of course, the cars sped through the liquid soap, without notice. We were really disappointed.

Of course, this story sounds so dopey by contemporary standards that I hesitated to relate it for fear that younger folks may thing that I'm a mental defect. Of course, young folks don't read this column, so I really have little to fear.

Speaking of little to fear. Let me offer that we all have little to fear. Why the anthrax hoopla? You have about a 1 in 3 chance of having cancer in your lifetime. By current numbers, you have about 1 in 100 million of dieing from anthrax. Lightning poses a bigger risk to you, to say nothing of driving on the highway. The same holds true for flying. The risk is small. Flights are cheap. Go someplace you always wanted to. Travel will likely never be cheaper, or less crowded.

I kidded my wife that I was going trick or treating this year. But I couldn't make up my mind whether to go as an Anthrax Spore, or a large envelope that sprayed talcum powder from time to time.

We need to gain a little perspective here. We need to laugh at the terrorists. We need to stay the course, do our jobs, and be reasonable about the real risks. Don't you just feel a little bit of a ''wimp'', worried about anthrax when our soldiers are parachuting in the dark into Afghanistan?

What would Will Rogers say about us running around calling ''9-1-1'' because we get a strange envelope or see foot powder on the floor? Whatever he'd say, we deserve it. My guess is that he'd have particularly barbed humor for CNN and similar channels that used to report news but now simply interview news reporters. These folks appear to seek on the most paranoid folks that they can find, and give them their 15 seconds of fame, expressing some lame fear or another.

Perhaps we deserve this. I don't know. Have we gotten so complacent, so secure, that a few acts of isolated terrorism can destroy our economy, threaten our postal system, and threaten the ''American Way of Life'' -- watching mindless TV humor?

Let's show those terrorists that a few million anthrax spores are not going to come between our TV shows and us. Let's dust off those credit cards and do the American thing- drive our economy by deficit spending. Perhaps it was Will Rogers who said, to the effect, that Americans would be the first people to drive themselves to the poor house.

We can't disappoint him. We're at war, and war economies are supposed to be good.

Perhaps Will Rogers would observe that neither snow, nor sleet, nor rain will delay the postal system but a little talc will bring it to a halt.

In a more serious vein, some crusty old guy had a good phrase or two during WWII. Perhaps we should remember that famous quote -- dang, I can't remember it -- but it had something to do about having Nothing to Fear But Fear Itself.

So let's get real. Call me silly, but I really think that our risks of harm coming from driving the car, from cancer, from falling in the home, and yes, even a lightning strike, is statistically a much greater risk than a terrorist. After all, when was the last time you saw a camel in Galesburg?

Breathe deeply and relax. The only mail you really need to worry about are those darn bills. Enjoy life. It's the only one you got.

Happy Halloween. Hug a ghost or two. They need your support. The competition is tough this year.

Uploaded to The Zephyr Online October 31, 2001

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