It was nearly my finest moment.
The small horse farm I once owned was a great setting for outdoor parties. The house was small, but overlooked a large grassy lawn that wrapped around a beautiful one-acre pond. We held several very large parties during the warm months, setting up picnic tables, grilling burgers and setting a bonfire ablaze when night fell.
It was still really warm one October, so my ex and I decided to host a Halloween party. We strung fake spider webs between trees and stuffed old clothes with straw and used fake blood to make a few decapitated people, a knife-wielding Jason, and an unfortunate outlaw who was hung from the limb of a huge oak tree so that his boots nearly scraped the car roofs as people drove up to park in the pasture next to the house.
At the peak of the party, we lit the bonfire and everybody stood around while our very theatrical friend Margo began to tell the story of Sleepy Hollow. I slunk away to the neighbor’s barn, saddled up Cooter, a sturdy Morgan-quarter horse, and donned a headless horseman costume I’d spent weeks designing.
The key to the costume was a piece of Styrofoam shaped to form shoulders with a hole cut in the middle so that it fit on my head like a hat. A black cape draped down the sides and back, and a length of flimsy black material covered the front and tucked into my black jeans. The material was sheer enough to see through clearly … well, at least in the daytime. It was a bit more difficult at night.
Undaunted by my limited vision, I spurred my mount forward when I got the signal from another co-conspirator that Margo was reaching the climax of the story.
We thundered down the long main drive and up the house drive that circled along the hill above the pond.
It was an Oscar-winning performance…by the horse.
Coot snorted and drummed his hooves on the dirt as I yelled and swung my sword above my headless body. It was perfect. Right up until the moment …
…the forgotten outlaw’s boots nailed me right in the forehead.
There went my “Best Actress” award. The wide-eyed crowd dissolved into chuckles while I struggled to keep my seat and reposition my headgear.
Coot did his best to save the show, whirling and prancing down to the crowd as I recovered. He even half-reared while I cried hoarsely: “Beware, I’ll have a head before night’s end.”
Because they were my friends, they cheered and clapped when Coot turned and we rode off into the darkness.
Later, we were finishing off the last beers in the cooler and I was lamenting over the gaffe. Then one of my good friends pointed out that if it had been a perfect performance, it would be quickly forgotten. Instead, every Halloween someone is bound to say, “Remember the time you were trying to be a scary headless horseman and that dummy clocked you right in the head?”
Maybe not my finest moment, but a performance that will be remembered.