For some reason there were not any light poles as we know them today. In those days of the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, to illuminate the streets of the small rural town, lights were stretched across the streets; wires would go from a pole on one side of the street to another pole directly across the street and the street light would dangle there suspended in the middle, the metal fixture including a shade that directed the light from the incandescent bulbs downward, illuminating the street and immediate adjacent sidewalks and lawns.
It was the end of October, the Halloween time of the year. The local fire department had put on their annual Halloween party for the kids of the area; bobbing for apples, the “haunted house”, and we in our varied Halloween costumes. Along with the fire department festivities we also did the usual trick or treating; a time to fill the sack with candy, popcorn balls, cookies, and other goodies. This was a whole generation before sick psychos used Halloween trick or treating to intentionally put harmful things in the treats handed out on Halloween. That year was going to be my last year of trick or treating. The general rule of thumb was once you were in junior high, your trick or treating days were over. So it was I headed out from the school were the firemen's Halloween party was held, to hit the town and pick up a few treats.
The first street of houses I worked that particular night was a cul-de-sac running off of the main street. At the corner of the main street and the cul-de-sac was a street light stretched across the main street as previously described. I had hit all the houses on the cul-de-sac and was ready to head back to the main street. There were was a good steady wind blowing, and I was struck with how the street light was swaying back and forth, dancing in the wind. It was there that a sort of magic took hold of my imagination.
Oddly enough the sense was not a foreboding fear of some evil supernatural apparition coming to life an All Hallows Eve. It was more a sense of being alone in a deserted place. There was no traffic on the street. There was just the street light dancing in the wind. For those few brief moments the only living things in that town were myself and that dancing street light. In those moments, the image of that dancing street light was forever indelibly imprinted on my mind and in my memory.
In the years that followed I would from time to time come across a few literary descriptions that reminded me of that image.
In Ray Bradbury’s “Martian Chronicles” the point comes toward the end of the book were all the Earth people who settled on Mars are called back to Earth at the outbreak of war. The Earth colonies and settlements on Mars are abandoned, but a few people are left behind; left behind to wander over the surface of Mars from deserted town to deserted town living out the rest of their lives alone. In that narrative the image of the dancing street light comes to my mind.
I sat in the theater as the movie; “To Kill a Mockingbird” was nearing its end. The fall harvest festival at the local school is over, and Scout and Jem are about to walk home and into the dramatic climax of the whole story. It is night and we see the street lights of that small rural town through the eyes of Scout as she peers through the eyes of her ham costume. In that image, I see the dancing street light of my youth.
Over fifty years later as the fall of the year comes around and the leaves on the trees are changing color, and the corn is ripe for the picking, and the days grow colder, I think back to that autumn night so long, long ago when the street light danced, sparking the imagination and stirring the feelings; one of those magical moments that stay with you for a life time; those moments in life that give hints of stories to be told, other worlds to be discovered, and adventures yet to come.
~ The Billy Goat ~