What is more fun than being scared? Not much! There are haunted houses aplenty at Halloween, but the admission prices keep climbing and single parent budgets can’t afford them. So how can you have a hauntingly good time with your kids?
Do you remember snipe hunts? Yes, you heard me right - snipe hunts. I took my daughters on a snipe hunt when they were 9- and 13-years old. We had a blast! We took a close family friend, our flashlights and our grocery bags and headed off to a nearby boat landing at the river. There are trails all along the river where people go to fish from the bank. (I would suggest that your first trip to such a place not be the night of your hunt. Go down before, during the day, to get acquainted with the area. You don’t want any real surprises in the dark!)
On the way to the river, I told my girls about snipes and how you caught them: by chasing them from one end of the trail to the other where one of us would be standing to catch them up in our grocery bags. Now, I don’t know what version of snipes you used to hunt, but ours were furry little creatures with long noses and porcupine-like quills, but whose shape more resembled that of a weasel. I gave them a really good description as we were driving down to the river. When we got to the access road, we rolled down the windows so that we could hear the crickets and the frogs. The night noises alone were a bit spooky, considering our intent.
We parked the car and got out with our flashlights and bags. (I have to confess here that I had loosed the cap on one of the flashlights so that the connection would work itself loose and the flashlight would eventually go out. This is the light that I gave to the girls.) Our very accommodating family friend volunteered to go deep into the trails and be the one to hold the bag that would catch the snipe. I would help the girls search for the snipes and drive them in the direction of the catcher.
The night woods cooperated that night with lots of little noises: crickets, cicadas, tiny paws scurrying through dry grass. At one point, a fish jumped in the water and the girls jumped by my side. That was the moment that the “murkers” were born. I just couldn’t help myself. “Murkers” are the snipes’ mortal enemies. They were searching for snipes just as we were. And they are possessive predators. They were not happy that we were searching the woods, too. They live in the water and are long and scaly, much like crocodiles, but with sharper teeth and the ability to move very fast on land despite the fact that they have no legs. They were active that night, mainly because I kept swinging my flashlight beam out over the water. Eventually we heard a steady noise in the dry grass ahead. It was a nest of snipes! (Conveniently mimicked by my dear friend hiding on the path up ahead). We had sticks in hand to tap together, driving the snipes ahead of us. And drive them we did - until the flashlight went out. The girls screamed and we all went still, allowing our eyes to adjust to the darkness. Then we moved forward again.
As we reached the spot where my friend was waiting on the snipes, we heard her scream. She came running at us with a huge hole ripped in the bottom of her grocery bag! She told us that she had a snipe, but that a murker (she had been listening; words carry on the night air) had snuck up behind her and literally ripped him from her bag. The snipes were scared, the murkers were angry and we needed to get out of the woods! And so we ran!
We were breathless by the time we got back to the parking lot and my girls were looking over their shoulders as they begged me to “Unlock the car! Quick!” I continued to spin my stories all the way home - how snipes sometimes clung to the bottom of your car as you left their home grounds so that they could escape the murkers, how the only way they would let go was if you passed a graveyard and then they would jump off, how murkers would track you down by your tire marks if they felt you were a threat to their hunting grounds. Okay, it works better on younger kids than older ones, but for this kid, it was an awful lot of dirt-cheap fun!
Once home, popcorn and hot chocolate helped to settle everyone down. The whole evening – gas, hot chocolate, and popcorn – probably cost me $3.00 and it was hours of fun that they still remember and get a good belly-laugh over. In fact, I get a good case of the smiles reliving it with all of you. My point? Plan your own “spooky” evening of fun and laughter; its amazing how simple it can be and still be a success.