“Tyron Rumsowa” (an anagram of is real name) must’ve stood all of four-foot -six in his steel-toed farm boots. Even on the rare times he’d come to church— on his horse he’d tie up on the black iron fence–Tyron always wore what looked like a boy’s size 10 faded denim overalls. He had salt and pepper hair and matching scruff on his small face. His deep-set eyes and slightly crooked nose reminded me of a turtle. Small in physical stature, Tyron made up for it with larger-than-life antics that even 20 years or so after his death, are still remembered as legendary by the over 45 crowd in my hometown.
As a kid in the mid 70s, this Lilliputian neighbor of mine always seemed ancient, but surprisingly spry. He’d drive his big red tractor up and down the road or be dangling from a ladder sprucing up his big red colonial down the street. Tyron farmed several acres that ribboned behind four or five houses on our street, high on a ridge. From our Cape Cod across and at the bottom of one of his pastures, I could make out silhouettes of his cows, horses and sheep grazing high on the hill against the backdrop of the sky.
As a recent assignment at our library’s memoir writer’s group, I immediately thought of this real life character from my childhood. I could expound on several of his antics, but in the spirit of the season, a particular Halloween night when I was in first grade (’71) comes to mind. Thankfully I was too young and innocent to know how deadly this kid holiday might have turned out; I am sure it scared the hell out of my poor mother—thanks to our real life character neighbor!
Mom was leading my younger sister and me as we trick-o-treated around our neighborhood. The pinprick eye-holes of my plastic witch mask that smelled like my cousin’s Lite Brite were hard to see through. It was sweaty, but I could draw in the crisp, late autumn air through the oval mouth hole. Sometimes it made a whistling noise when I exhaled.
We were about to head back to our yard and into the house to count our candy when Tyron came crawling up our street in his late 1950s pick up truck. I heard it sputter along, but I had my mind on more important matters.
“I hope I got lots of Snickers!” I muffled through my mask. I couldn’t wait to dive in my loot after the obligatory examination of potentially tampered candy. We never found any pins and needles. We lived in a safe neighborhood, after all.
“Get down!” Mom screamed all of a sudden. I felt a whoosh behind me and the next thing I knew I was witch-face-down in a pile of leaves. “Stay still!” Mom whispered pulling my sister and me under each of her arms. Too stunned to speak or cry out, we just lay there, clutching our pillowcases of candy.
I could hear my breathing loud and fast inside my witch mask. After a little while, Mom whispered frantically, “Quick, run to the house!”
I stood up, but couldn’t feel the ground beneath me. My legs were flailing behind me like a Raggedy Ann doll as Mom carried us like two sacks under each arm to the house. “My God,” she said, out of breath setting us down in the kitchen.
We took off our masks and looked up at her. “What was that about?” I asked, not sure if I was supposed to laugh or be serious. “I’m scared Mommy,” my sister said tearfully, clinging to my mother’s arm.
“What the hell is going on, Sone-ya?” my father asked, his eyes wide.
“Tyron had a shot gun pointing of his pick up window!” my mother said, her eyes were big. She had her hand on her chest.
“What?” he said. “That crazy old coot!”
I don’t exactly remember what happened after that. There were no cops. My mother or father probably just called Tyron’s son who lived across the street from us. I do recall mom saying that Tyron was angry at kids trespassing that night on his back forty.
Looking back, I have to say that no one was really scarred by this event. We just sat on the braided orange rug in the living sifting through our candy.
Do you remember a colorful character from your childhood? Post about in it the comments below!