Halloween Traditions
by  Belinda

Disclaimer: I claim not to claim anything including the Lancers. I claim that no money exchanged hands between me or anyone who looks or acts like me.

Author’s note: I used images in this story because I thought it would give a better picture of what the boys were doing. I didn’t do the carving only searched for images.  I also want to thank SF for her help and you should too because it always looks and reads so much better after she uses her red pencil!!!


Scott surveyed the small patio table with a critical eye. He was about to start a project for the upcoming Halloween festival and he wanted to make sure he had the proper tools ready and easily assessable. Carefully and meticulously he spread out the newspaper making sure the thickness was adequate to hold the mess he was about to make. Sitting next to him on the low part of the courtyard wall were two huge pumpkins.

It had been one of his favorite traditions as a child in Boston to carve the jack-o-lanterns that the staff used to decorate and entertain the small child who lived in a world of adults. Harlan Garret spent very little time indulging in childhood fantasies preferring to give his only grandson material things and leaving the child in the care of the staff. He did, however, insure that those he did employ would be lenient and take the time to teach the young boy many of the things he himself did not have time for or the knowledge of. He felt secure in knowing that those who were in charge of his house would take extra steps to make sure Scott participated in the same activities and enjoyments as other children his age.

With Maria’s big butcher knife in hand, Scott picked up the first pumpkin and carefully cut the top off in order to scoop out the guts. He grimaced slightly at the feel of the stringy pulp and the slimy seeds. It wasn’t, however, unpleasant enough to deter him from separating those precious seeds from the orangey gore in order to roast them for a favorite treat later in the evening.

Once both pumpkins had been properly cut open and cleaned out he sat them back on the wall. Before he could begin the artistic part of his project, the over whelming need to clean his hands from the mess he had just scooped from the pumpkins prompted him to make a mad dash to the pump by the trough. It was important that he have complete control of the knife in order not to make any errors in his work.

Johnny rode up on his horse and dismounted. He noticed two orange pumpkins sitting on the low part of the wall and was curious enough about their presence to hand off the care of Barranca to one of the hands. He usually chose to tend to his horse’s needs himself. It was soothing for him to brush and feed his beloved horse after a long day in the saddle; tromping through creeks filled with debris.

Just as the curious cowboy made his way over to the pumpkins he spied his brother rounding the corner with a towel thrown across his shoulder. “Whatcha doin’, Scott?”

“I am about to indulge in the art of making a jack-o-lantern, little brother. Would you care to watch?” Scott asked as he began arranging an assortment of knives to be used as he carved the perfect face for his pumpkins. He sat down and reached for the first pumpkin to begin carving the face that he hoped would bring squeals of fright from the children who lived on the ranch.

“Sure but what’s a jack-o-lantern?” Johnny asked as he reached up and picked bits of stringy orange pulp from his brother’s blond hair. He had never heard of such a thing and his curiosity made him forget about the bath he had been thinking about all day.

Johnny watched Scott begin to work on the pumpkin; his whittling soon revealed a pair of eyes. Flipping his hat back off his head, he pulled the chair out with his foot and he sat down to watch his older brother carve on the big orange pumpkin that a few minutes earlier had been nothing more than a big unadorned gourd.

For almost ten minutes Johnny quietly observed the way his brother took the different knives and performed pumpkin surgery. Turning the pumpkin one way, and then rotating it the other way, the features of a face soon began to appear. It amused him to see Scott so serious about something other than books. It was almost comical to watch the different expressions that came across his brother’s face.

After a few moments of watching Scott work, Johnny glanced at the other pumpkin and began to run his hand over the smooth sides feeling the imperfections that made it unique. “Hey, Scott, are you going to make a face on this one too?”

Never looking up from his work, Scott answered his brother with a simple, “Yes.”

Johnny continued to watch his brother carve while his hand gently ran over the surface of the second pumpkin. Finally, he couldn’t stand it anymore and he picked the pumpkin up and sat it on the table before him. Scott noticed the movement and asked, “Haven’t you ever carved a pumpkin before, little brother?”

“Nah. We never had many pumpkins in Mexico and besides they were more for eatin’ than decoratin’,” Johnny answered, tilting his head to the side, he studied the pumpkin and when his mind was apparently made up he reached into his boot for his knife.

Scott continued to work on his jack-o-lantern paying little attention to his younger brother. In the mean time, Johnny had begun working on the pumpkin before him. He became so absorbed in what he was doing that the world around him seemed to fade away.

Scott finished his pumpkin and surveyed it with satisfaction. The young man felt this was probably the best pumpkin he had ever carved. Never a year had gone by that he had not indulged in his childhood passion. Carving these pumpkins brought back very fond memories of candy apples and beautiful fall leaves.  There had been contests each year and often he had won with his unique way of making his jack-o-lantern look as if it would devour anyone who dared to come close to it. Suddenly he noticed how quiet his kid brother was being, which was something unique in itself. He was surprised to find Johnny sitting still and meticulously working on the other pumpkin.

His little brother worked the knife with skill as he glided it over the surface of his pumpkin. Shaving little bits here and bigger bits there, never looking up from his work. He didn’t even realize Maria and Teresa had come to inspect the pumpkins and gather the seeds for roasting. He continued on with his work, detached from the world around him; not caring about anything but what he was doing.

Murdoch noticed the boys sitting in the courtyard patio and the women watching them as he rode up. After handing the reins to one of the hands he cautiously moved towards the patio wondering what had everyone so spellbound.  As he neared his family he could see the pumpkin that Scott had carved and he couldn’t help but smile at the youthful activity his grown son had insisted on participating in. He didn’t have much experience with carving jack-o-lanterns but he had always admired the ones the ranch children produced every year. He was impressed with the wicked grin that graced Scott’s pumpkin. It was obvious his son had done this many times before.



Murdoch couldn’t stop the grunt of surprise as he stepped onto the stone patio floor to find his youngest was sitting very still carving on his own pumpkin. It was very out of character for Johnny to indulge in such juvenile activities, and to sit this still for any length of time was even more out of character. The boy seemed to always be in motion even in his sleep. He stood behind Scott and watched for a long time as Johnny skillfully cut on his pumpkin. He noticed that instead of large chunks of pumpkin lying in front of him there were only slivers and small shavings. He was amused at the way the boy’s tongue would dart in and out as he worked.

Finally, after quite awhile Johnny laid down his knife and inspected his pumpkin. He turned it several different ways as he made sure he had it just the way he thought it should look. He placed it next to Scott’s on the low wall and stood up.

“You know, big brother, I kinda like this new tradition of carvin’ jack-o-lanterns. Reckon we can do this again next year if you like.” Johnny rubbed his hands down the side of his legs wiping off the pumpkin juice and flesh that had collected on his hands while working. “Well, I guess I better go and get myself cleaned up for supper. I don’t think Mamacita wants me coming to the table with pumpkin and cow poop all over me.” He grinned at the small Mexican woman and as he passed by her, he reached out and planted a quick kiss to her cheek.

Johnny disappeared through the patio doors while everyone just stared at the jack-o-lantern he had just created. No one could ever remember seeing anything quite like it. There on the front of the pumpkin was an artistic rendering  of a bruja.

Happy Halloween


October 2011






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