Monday, October 30, 2017

Reluctant Trick-or-Treater Had fun Halloween Anyway

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Reluctant Trick-or-Treater Had fun

Halloween Anyway

By Peggy Toney Horton

     Our house was situated on the banks of the Kanawha River. It had a great yard shaded by large fruit trees. Apple, pear, plum, and peach trees delighted the senses as well as the appetite. What's more, a long arbor laden with succulent purple grapes all summer completed the orchard–like feel of the yard.

Ah, but it was very dark at night. Spooky. Not even the brightest moonlight could find its way around or through the abundant foliage surrounding the house. It was a small town and there were few streetlights – certainly none at the end of the street that led to the river.

As a child, I cared nothing about Halloween. Still don’t. I realize I was then, and still am, among the minority, but the day holds little fascination for me. When my friends said, “What are you gonna be for Halloween?” I crinkled my nose and answered, “I don’t know. Probably nothing."

Yet, invariably, a few friends came to my house at near-darkness every Halloween night, and insisted I go trick-or-treating with them. It didn’t do any good to refuse. They kept on until I went to my mother’s closet and found something to fashion a costume – an old dress, hat and some make-up was enough to do the trick for me and off we’d go hitting every house in the small town, saying the words, trick-or-treat what seemed like a thousand times and coming home with our bags full of goodies. I enjoyed it in spite of myself, but always vowed never to do it again! It was the same every year.


One year stands out in my memory. 

My father loved practical jokes. This particular Halloween, he came up with one that still makes me chuckle.

There was a weathered old garage standing at the edge of our property in the front. It seemed to have no purpose. I don’t know who owned it or why it was there.

My dad got the bright idea that, since the dilapidated old garage was already scary looking, especially after dark, and one could imagine all sorts of things going on inside, it might be fun to make it even scarier for the trick-or-treaters and see what happened.

And so… just before dark, he squeezed through the small opening in the garage door, which stood a little ajar at all times but didn’t seem to open fully. The way it creaked when it was moved made it a perfect Halloween prop! The cracks between the vertical boards were just far apart enough so that he could see out without being seen.
I was given the honor of sitting on the front porch swing with a bowl of candy to hand out when the little ghosts and goblins said, “Trick or Treat!” 
My dad watched for the kids through the cracks and allowed them to go to the porch and collect their goodies, but when they turned to leave and reached the end of our walk, which was parallel with the side of the old garage, he’d shine a flashlight through the cracks and let out a horrible monster sound that could have awakened the dead!
Each reaction was almost the same: the child stopped, looked surprised, and then screamed a blood-curdling scream before running away as fast as possible. My dad enjoyed himself to the max.
But as more kids came, they had been warned by others and were ready for the trick. We thought the fun was over until one little guy decided he wasn’t gonna let a make-believe garage monster scare him. “I’m gonna open the door and see who this person is that’s scaring my friends!” he announced proudly.
He bravely walked up to the partly open door, stopped and was ready to peek inside when suddenly, with a deafening bellow, my father lurched right in front of the boy. But something was different. 
He had no head!
Even I was startled for an instant.
The little boy’s eyes grew as big as half-dollars and, for a few seconds, he seemed paralyzed, but when he finally managed to move, he turned and ran away. 
Unbuttoning his jacket and removing it from his head, Dad smiled, winked at me and said, “Let’s go inside. The fun’s over.”
It was the best Halloween I ever had!

Peggy Toney Horton lives in Nitro and can be reached at
©Charleston Sunday Gazette Mail-November 2, 2014

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Even When we are Alone, God is With Us


  July 23, 2017

Even When we are Alone, God is With Us

By Peggy Toney Horton

     One of our lifelong friends passed away recently, leaving a wife he was married to for more than sixty years. They had no children. Sadly, this wonderful lady is now all alone.

When this happens, friends and relatives are attentive at first – sending cards; bringing food; stopping by to talk; checking to see if the survivor needs anything and phoning often. It seems that this might go on indefinitely. But, although these people mean well, they have jobs and families and obligations. Life soon beckons and they respond. Suddenly, the survivor finds herself alone—and lonely.

At some point in our lives, many of us have probably dealt with loneliness – one of life’s most painful experiences. This can be discouraging, especially when there is no one to help us through this trying situation.

After my father died, my mother used to say that weekends were the loneliest times for her. I never understood that. It seemed to me that every day would have been about the same, as my father was retired. And even though I visited her on weekends, it wasn’t enough. She explained it like this: “That was our quality time together,” she said sweetly. “All week, I stayed busy with housework, laundry and cooking, while he worked in the yard, washed the car or piddled around the house. There’s always something to do when you own a house, you know.” I nodded.

“But come Saturday morning,” she said, “We lingered a long time over breakfast, enjoying lengthy conversations as we drank our coffee, and then we’d get cleaned up and go downtown and do a little shopping. Sometimes we just looked around, or he’d find something to do while I got my hair done. Finally, we’d go to a nice restaurant for dinner before going home. We looked forward to Saturdays. After church on Sunday, we’d have lunch and sit around for hours sipping coffee or iced tea while we read the Sunday papers. I miss all that,” she said wistfully.

My mother lived 25 years after my father died, never remarrying. And she never stopped referring to her lonely weekends.

Although it’s difficult for most of us to understand, sometimes God allows such situations because they are opportunities to bring us into a closer relationship with Him. When we’re all alone and others are unable or unwilling to help, God is the One who is always with us!

While the reality of God’s constant presence with us is a fact, unfortunately, we are not always aware of Him, especially in lonely periods. Have you sometimes wondered, if He’s with me, why can’t I sense His presence? Why do I feel so alone? At times like these, our courage weakens and it’s difficult to rely on the truth that He will never leave us or forsake us. (Heb. 13:5)

In his lifetime of walking with Christ, the apostle Paul learned that times of weakness were God’s invitation to depend on Him. When Paul was struggling with a “thorn in the flesh,” the Lord said to him, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is perfected in weakness.”

Christians have a responsibility to visit widows and others who are lonely. It must be made clear that God is always with them. Our greatest resource for letting them know that, of course, is the Bible. Throughout its pages, the Lord tells His people that He is with them. Before Christ ascended to the Father, He promised His followers, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20)

Thus, the Holy Spirit abides within us—and we are never alone!

Peggy Toney Horton lives at Nitro and can be reached at

©Sunday Gazette-Mail - July 23, 2017