By Coulter Fussell
Water Valley has a couple of big annual events where everybody in town gets crazy excited and comes out for a few hours of fun. It’s the exact same two events each year and we all know them: the watermelon carnival and the Christmas parade. And in the last couple of years the Art Crawl has really been elbowing its way into Water Valley’s social calendar, so we can call these events The Big Three.
But, as a resident of Dupuy Street, I feel it’s time to publicly acknowledge that fourth event; the black sheep of Water Valley’s social holidays, the creepy step-child of town parties. The one always lurking in the dark corner staring at you side-eye while slowly eating candy corns, one by one. Yeah, you Panola Street people know what I’m talking about.
I wish I had a nickel for every time I’ve told someone over the last 10 years, “There is absolutely nothing like Halloween in Water Valley. It’s like a trick-or-treating scene from the movies.” Because then I would have enough money to not only afford all the Blow-Pops I have to buy every October but also go to the movies.
The first full year I lived on Dupuy Street I didn’t know what was to come for my household on Hallo-ween, for I had not been forewarned. September was ending and October was beginning and I hadn’t even noticed a change in my neighborhood except the arrival of the spider lilies.
I thought the decorations (i.e. life-sized coffin with severed and bloodied arm hanging out) at the big house across the street, the appearance of a lonesome head in the top story window of Dr. Weeks’ house, and Snooky and Mary Lou’s eight-foot wide inflatable spiders were all cute, fun and quaint. Oh, I was so innocent then to the ways of Water Valley.
That is, until it turned 5 p.m. on that first Hallo-ween and the first mini-van pulled up to the corner of Leland and Dupuy. The van door opened and a little princess hopped out, tripping on her long, chiffon dress and dropping her cute little star-tipped wand. Her tiara was tilted sideways over her curls and she smiled as she tip-toed up my walkway. She was such a sweet little thing. “Twick or Tweat!” she chirped.
But beware, the harbinger of death comes in many forms.
She was so cute that I hadn’t noticed the others. Emerging from the shadows, from behind the trees, from under bushes, from the backs of vans and pick-up trucks: children. Many, many children. Hundreds and hundreds of children. They were coming. They were hungry for candy. And I only had two bags of Tootsie Rolls.
The next several hours were a blur for me. I have some flashes of memory that occasionally come back to me in my nightmares…a Spiderman and Patrick-from-Sponge-Bob holding hands. A tiny ninja sitting quiet and alone by my stop sign for way too long. My youngest trick-or-treater, an eight day old infant, dressed like a Dracula.
The entire under-18 population of Yalobusha County descends upon Dupuy, Panola, Leland, and Young Streets each year in a candy-grabbing free-for-all and it is fantastic. It’s made even more fantastic every time a kid says ‘thank you.’ It honestly does take a little chunk of change to buy enough candy and at least 5 or six hours out of your evening, as the trick-or-treaters still come even though you’ve put up a sign saying you’re out of candy, turned out all your house lights, and are pretending to be asleep, which you are definitely are not because there are zombie children trying to break down your front door.
I have friends travel from Oxford just to witness the Panola/Dupuy Hallo-ween onslaught. Their kids ask to come to Water Valley’s Halloween instead of staying in Oxford. We may struggle to compete with Oxford on a lot of things, but when it comes to Halloween, we’ve got them beat. We put the nail in that coffin.