Subtitle: This one's for you, Judy.
See these two neatly dressed girls standing on the front porch of their home? See their pretty hair, the result of bobby-pinned curls made by the patient hands of their mother? See the innocent smiles on their faces?
Now picture the two girls in an upstairs bedroom of the same house. They sit cross-legged on the wooden floor, their shoulders hunched, heads close together. They aren't smiling now.
Between them on the floor is a small brown suitcase with a wide beige stripe on top of it. The older girl opens the suitcase and exposes the record player inside. She places a 78-rpm record on the turntable, lifts the mechanical arm, and carefully sets the needle down on the outer edge the record. Both girls lean back slightly and wait, their eyes bright with anticipation.
"Who's that coming down the street?
Are they shovels or are they feet?
It's the new schoolmaster.
What's his name?
Ichabod, Ichabod Crane."
The girls were my sister and I, and that record I loved so much was the soundtrack of a 1949 Disney animated film based on Washington Irving's "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," narrated and sung by Bing Crosby. It was the story of Ichabod Crane, a skinny, timid but charming schoolteacher, the beautiful Katrina Van Tassel whom Ichabod loved, and the big, brutish Brom Bones, Ichabod's rival for Katrina's affections. At the heart of the story was a frightening Halloween legend. My favorite part of the record--the part that never failed to send a delicious chill down my spine--was Ichabod's fateful encounter with that legend's dreaded Headless Horseman.
This morning I found a YouTube video clip from that Disney film. The legend is explained in the first three and a half minutes of the clip, but if you want to go right to the scary part, start listening at the 3:40 mark.
I use the word "listening" deliberately. You can watch the clip if you choose--the animation is colorful and entertaining--but I would challenge you to close your eyes and just listen. Travel to the 1950s and huddle in that bedroom with my little sister and me. Do as we did: listen and let your imagination create the images as Ichabod tries to flee the Headless Horseman. To a child's mind it's the best kind of scary.
Happy Halloween, boys and ghouls!