What is so scary about dem bones?

Our skeleton horse has galloped away.
Our skeleton horse has galloped away.

Have you ever written the perfect post, so perfect in fact that you thought you’d never again revisit that subject?

We live by a calendar, and because it’s a cyclical calendar, it’s quite predictable. When I was in the newspaper business, we’d run an obligatory Pearl Harbor story every Dec. 7, and of course different veterans would be interviewed for the editions of June 6, D-Day. Newspaper readers expected them, and hot phone calls to the office were proof of what would happen when we failed to meet those expectations.

Even religious holidays like Easter and Christmas would have stories pegged to Spring fashions, or traditional holiday recipes. As an editor, I found that sameness comforting because I knew I’d have a nice splash, and there wouldn’t be too much dicking around with having to make decisions. See, I never had to actually write anything; my job was to give the stories someone else had written a pleasing treatment on my section front.

But now that I’ve been blogging for awhile, the worm has turned. As a so-called “content producer” — even for an insubstantial enterprise like this blog — that sameness isn’t comforting anymore. Now I have to write what’s already been written, and no doubt that phenomenon is contributing to the writer’s block that currently afflicts me.

But let’s return for a minute to my perfect post. Last year, in advance of Halloween, I wrote something I liked a lot. It fairly summed up my feelings on the subject of Halloween and fear, and there’s not one thing about it I would change. Yet here I am again, faced with writing the same thoughts in a different way.

Halloween is still more than a month away, but already there’s stuff in the stores that needs buying, and that’s certainly true at Big Orange, where I work part-time.

We had an incident at Big Orange. I don’t know the particulars because it happened at a time I wasn’t on duty, but a customer, apparently, took great offense at the nearly life-sized skeleton horse that was on display. The customer was so bent out of shape, in fact, that Big Orange Corporate HQ was contacted, people above my pay grade discussed the crisis, and an edict was issued, which directed that our skeleton horse had to come down.

I think our skeleton in the wood chipper is pretty clever, and I'm actually surprised that he remains on view. Perhaps it's because he's not parked in a very prominent location.
I think our skeleton in the wood chipper is pretty clever, and I’m actually surprised that he remains on view. Perhaps it’s because he’s not parked in a very prominent location.

I really didn’t want to write again about the juxtaposition of Halloween and fear, but here we are again.

I don’t understand it, folks, I really don’t.

What is it about skeletons that are so offensive or scary? Did the customer complain simply because that particular skeleton depicted a horse? Is the customer a horse owner? Did Old Nellie give the customer’s kid a particular fright?

I don’t have answers to those questions.

This year at Big Orange, we have cat skeletons, dachshund skeletons, rat skeletons and human skeletons — including one that’s taken up residence in a wood chipper.  None of those, apparently, pose a problem.

I don’t get it.

Perhaps more than any other holiday, Halloween points to the circular nature of our existence, and especially to that point where life ends. There’s a spiritual essence to Halloween — for some of us anyway — and that essence is sometimes represented by skeletons, whether it be that of a rat, a dog, a cat, a human … or a horse.

Detail of the Dia de los Muertos figures above our family shrine. The delicate figures were painstakingly collected over many years of trips to Mexico and South Texas, and I'm always looking for more to add to the collection.
Detail of the Dia de los Muertos figures above our family shrine. The delicate figures were painstakingly collected over many years of trips to Mexico and South Texas, and I’m always looking for more to add to the collection.

Parents who think nothing of teaching their children the “true meaning of Christmas” before allowing them to tear open their presents, quail at the notion of teaching the true meaning of Halloween to those same kids before sending them forth to extort candy from the neighbors.

No, I really don’t get it.

Life and Death are two sides of the same coin. Halloween celebrates the dying season, both literally and figuratively, and until we accept that truth, we’ll still have people who get upset by  bones molded out of Taiwanese plastic, and they’ll keep trying to ruin it for the rest of us. Halloween is meant to be fun, but it also has a solemn side that should be fully recognized. If we can’t do that, then we’ll continue to harbor unhealthy attitudes about a day that’s coming for every cat, dog, rat, human and horse among us.


Add yours →

  1. So, one person complained about the horse skeleton, and the store had to revise it’s Halloween display? I don’t see why they couldn’t have just avoided that part of the store, or waited until after Halloween to come in again. … I, for one love everything about Halloween. We did visit our ‘big orange’ store recently. The displays were wonderful, skeletons and all! I was oohing and ahhing all over the place! 🙂 Your Dia de los Meurtos is great! Here in TX we have a big Day of the Dead Celebration every year!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Even though I was born in El Paso and lived for some time in Del Rio, both along the Texas-Mexico border, as an Anglo the Day of the Dead held no big significance for me. That’s pretty much the case for Halloween, too — or at least it has been since our daughters outgrew trick-or-treating (something the 31-year-old still mourns). Now it just means buying and handing out candy to the youngsters, while setting aside a Butterfinger or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup to enjoy after the porch light has been turned off at the end of the evening. Apart from that, all the hoo-hah about zombies and vampires and such is just so much childish silliness, and I can’t see what a horse skeleton has to do with selling tools and lumber. (Then again, I can’t understand how Big Orange’s owner can — in all good conscience — be such an outspoken supporter of the GOP’s candidate in this year’s presidential election. Now THERE’S a truly frightening thought …)

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Wait. The Los Muertos figures? And you talk crap abt ME? I don’t have skeletons or empty skulls in my living room. I’m thinking the lady at the Big Orange may have recently lost a horse?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Good thing you didn’t post a picture of the cat skeleton! I’d be offended and would demand you take the picture down from your blog! ;P

    Liked by 1 person

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