Sighting the Wild, Woodland Feline… A Halloween Discovery

Oklahoma is on the verge of celebrating a spectacular display of fall foliage all around the state. The first frost blanketed the grasses just a week ago.  And a crisp, morning chill melds with the eventual warmth of the rising sun, allowing for another balmy, autumn day.

Along with that, comes the hype and ridiculousness of the Halloween season. While masses of people buy loads of pumpkins to create Jack-O-Lanterns, and decorate with bats, ghosts and skeletons, I do not participate in the mayhem.  On “All Hallows Eve” I shut off the lights and hide in the dark.  Halloween lost its luster for me long ago.

On Halloween 1966, I was 5 and my brother was 4 years old. We made these masks at Sunday School. Today these would be considered unsafe since our arms were not free, and we could only see out of the eye holes with one eye!

My reasons for disliking the Halloween holiday are simple: it was embarrassing and mortifying for me as a kid.  My siblings and I attended a Lutheran parochial school and, oddly, we were allowed to celebrate Halloween by wearing our costumes to school all day.  Now, there were some rules about the costumes.  It was not considered appropriate to come as any character that was seen as sacrilegious or offensive to the church, so most of my schoolmates came as harmless beings.  Some were ghosts and pirates. Some came as real-life characters; airline stewardesses, car mechanics, chefs, or nurses.  A few were super heroes or cartoon characters.  Others were elegant figures like movie stars or dancers.  Hardly anyone had store-bought costumes.  Most of us came from farm families, and did not have money to spare for a costume.  Halloween wasn’t about evil and darkness back in the 60’s when I was a young girl.  It was more about fantasy and fun.  One might pull a harmless prank, but it was rare to hear of a destructive deed.

My best friend Lori, dressed as a gypsy one year.  Her mother had a cache of old clothing and jewelry.  Lori’s sisters had helped create her ensemble, consisting of a long, colorful skirt and a white blouse, adorned with lots of flashy, sparkly, vintage jewelry.  She had a bandana head wrap and scarves, and a jingly belt and shoes encrusted with flashy sequins.  Oh, how I longed to look just like her.  But, alas, I had come to school with no costume.

My mom didn’t have the time nor the resources to create an elaborate costume for me.   Most of the time, Mom purchased a few store-bought masks for us kids to wear on Halloween. We didn’t even have sheets to spare for a simple ghost costume, which is what most of the farm kids wore. That particular Halloween day at school, Lori felt sorry for me, so she shared some of her jewelry and a scarf.  I marveled at the rhinestone hoops that adorned her ears, and she let me borrow one of them.  I knew she meant well, but I was teased even more by wearing half of her costume.  Eventually, I gave her the earring, scarf and necklaces back.  My Halloween spirit now sufficiently broken, I sat in my gloom and misery, amongst the taunters.

That would be me in the ugly captain’s mask smoking a pipe and wearing a dress! Each of my siblings had an appropriate mask for personality and gender. I was so angry in this photo that I cried. For me, it was the worst Halloween ever!

As I got older, I was thankful that it was no longer cool to dress up for Halloween.  I was thankful  not to have to take my siblings trick-or-treating in the neighborhood we lived in.  To me, it was embarrassing to ask for candy.  I was always a serious child.  I never liked asking strangers for anything.  The only good thing I got from Halloween outings, was seeing the joy of my younger siblings as they went door to door for candy.  And, I can honestly say, our neighbors were good to us and very kind.  We were the only kids on the block, and with a dad that was always yelling at us, I’m sure they felt pity for us much of the time.

Some time ago,  a package arrived from a dear friend with a note saying I had won a little contest that he had sponsored for the Japanese Chin chat group I associate with.  Elated that I had finally won something, I could not wait to see what my prize was! After opening the large,  flat, bubble-wrap envelope, I discovered a most fabulous, feathered, Mardi Gras mask!  I immediately ran to the large mirror in the bathroom, carefully putting the mask on, and marveled at the beauty of the exquisite piece.  Looking at myself in the mirror, I was thrilled by the transformation I saw!  What an exciting photography prop this was!  I loved the mysterious “cat-like” qualities the mask exuded.  Wearing it, I felt both shy and reclusive, yet feisty, ferocious and playful.  How could it be that a simple mask could bring out something within that I did not realize I possessed?

My Baby Sister came along when I was 12 years old. She was lucky to have store-bought costumes. I guess there was a time when “Humanoids” were popular. I must say, she does make a cute little humanoid!

I carefully hung the exquisite feather mask in a safe area, waiting for a time when FD and I could take some appropriate photographs.  Weeks turned into months, and occasionally I would gaze at the mask thinking to myself that we really needed to have a fun photo session with it as our prop.  Then recently, the same dear friend sent a pair of black gloves with long, silver fingernails attached to the fingertips!  I had never seen anything like them!  Just sliding them on my hands felt like silk, causing my rough, “working” hands to take on an elegant, yet “cat-like” quality.  Again, I felt this strange, inner transformation… I longed to be this exotic creature with mysterious eyes, flamboyant feathers, and claw-like nails.  Who was this inner creature?

Recently, FD and I chose an evening where we could finally devote a little time to doing a quick photo shoot in the canyon with my new props.  It was fairly late in the evening so, out of approximately 60 photos, only a couple turned out well.  To boot, Daisy deer showed up and foiled any chances of coming up with very many great shots.  If she wasn’t licking at one of the two  cameras or pulling on the camera straps, she was trying to nibble my gloves, and she was completely fascinated with the feathers on the mask.  She reared up on her hind legs trying to get a better look at those interesting feathers!  After the evening shadows filtered in, we finally gave up, and decided to try taking more another time when Daisy wasn’t around.

The Wild, Woodland Feline is known to be shy and reclusive.

When we got back up to the house, FD and I had a good laugh at all the ill-fated photographs.  But it also dawned on me at that point; I finally had found a costume that fit my personality.  After many decades of feeling inadequate during the Halloween celebration, and having a sour attitude about it for many years, I realized, that Halloween had finally arrived for me!  This was a costume that was part of my skin; my personality!  I realized this is what it must feel like for millions of kids on Halloween, who get to live the dream of being their idol, favorite character, or role model.   Somehow, this feathered mask allowed me to slip into the role of a mysterious, woodland creature.  I felt fabulous and alluring.  I found myself feeling shy and timid, yet at the same time ferocious and downright predatory!  The claw-like gloves added to the prowess of the feline I resembled.  I felt as one with this interesting being, and I felt something deep and spiritual within.  On this eve, Littlesundog had connected with the woodlands, in her own right.  And now, just in time for Hallows Eve 2012, she has become the wild, woodland feline.

© Day by Day the Farm Girl Way…


47 thoughts on “Sighting the Wild, Woodland Feline… A Halloween Discovery

  1. Great pictures! That is one pretty feathered mask and costume. Halloween for me is about visiting haunted houses and seeing the kids ask for candy on Halloween night. Some of the kids costumes are very creative!

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    1. Thank you, Nathan! I have only been to a few haunted houses in my life, and frankly, I mostly don’t like being scared/surprised. If it was just a matter of walking around I’d be fine, but I’m constantly paranoid about what might jump out and scare the buhjeezus out of me. But like you, it is pretty cool watching the little ones come and go while trick-or-treating.

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  2. That is an amazing costume – has the wild woodland creature shown herself since? At least Daisy deer seemed to be unfazed by you!

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    1. I sort of wish Daisy had been less curious. She ruined our photoshoot, but then it WAS fairly comical. She often smells us if she’s lazing nearby, and will come to wherever we are. Obviously, Daisy is no different than any of us girls… she seems to like pretty things. I never wear jewelry around her anymore as she’s managed to yank off a couple of necklaces and earrings! She likes shiny, flashy things!

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  3. That’s a great story – and a great mask! My girls are frustrated by our unwillingness to break down and simply buy them each a costume for halloween, and so with less than two weeks until this holiday that I still don’t relate to, they’re scrambling for ideas. I actually got an idea or two here (thanks!). I’m glad Daisy wasn’t fazed by the wild woodland feline!

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    1. I must tell you, Sid, the only time Daisy did NOT like the costume was when I got down on my hands and knees with the mask and gloves on, climbing UP our slope, she got freaked out by this cat, clawing its way up the hill. I have no idea why she was ok with me walking tall, and not ok with me crawling towards her but she ran from me, with eyes wide open. Otherwise, she was very interested in nibbling the finery on the gloves, and she was completely taken with those feathers. I would have tried to put the mask upon her face (not strapped on) but she’s quick with her mouth and I couldn’t risk her pulling feathers loose!

      One of the most simple and clever costumes I’ve seen a couple of people wear is “Two Black-Eyed Peas”. Green t-shirts with one, big letter P printed in front, and each person with one black eye. Google “Homemade Halloween Costumes” and you’ll find a lot of cool and easy to make costumes!

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  4. Your story and your mask are wonderful, but I must confess – what caught me most is your opening paragraph about fall foliage in Oklahoma reaching its peak. I live on the coastal plain of Texas, where we still have summer-like humidity and warm temperatures. This coming week, I’m driving to Kansas City to visit an elderly aunt, and then moseying back home through Kansas and Oklahoma. I’m just thrilled to know that I may get to see some color – that’s the part of fall I miss the most!

    I hope there are no tricks on the trip, but it seems there will be some treats, compliments of Mother Nature!

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    1. Well, what a coincidence! I will be heading to eastern Oklahoma this week as well. I’m taking my cameras in hopes of getting some fall foliage shots in the beautiful mountains on the eastern part of the state. You will definitely see beautiful color in Kansas and parts of northern Oklahoma. I’m from Nebraska originally, and I miss the snow. I never liked the bitter cold, but I sure miss a nice snowstorm. Occasionally, we get a few inches here, and the good thing is, it doesn’t last more than a week and it’s melted away! I enjoy the novelty of it here!

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      1. Snork! I’m English and I love everything about my homeland except the way everybody panics about snow. Really. After a 2″ snowfall the whole country comes to a standstill and people die in traffic jams.
        The last 2 winters have been EXTREMELY HARSH by our standards, meaning about 4″ of snow which didn’t melt for OVER A WEEK!!! I used to cringe at the fuss, comparing us with just about every country where I e-know people. Then somebody pointed out that what stops us being prepared for snow is that we don’t invest enough in preparing. Some winters, in most parts of these islands we get no snow at all.

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        1. Ha ha ha! I love this word “Snork”!! You gave me the first laugh of the morning! I grew up in Nebraska which is cold and snowy, even icy in the winter months. Down here in Oklahoma, further south, it’s the same as what you describe… closing down towns and roadways over a few inches of fluff. I agree though, we don’t have the equipment or resources to move snow and it doesn’t happen much here that we get snow. If we do, it’s melted in a couple of days.

          The past couple of winters were mild here, thus we had an abundance of pests this year… locusts, grasshoppers, and other vile plant-eating insects. I’m hoping for more in the freezing temperature department so that we’ll rid ourselves of another year of pestilence! Thanks for informing us about your region. I find it fascinating how we all differ in lifestyle and regional differences!

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    1. Yes you do!! I had no idea I had an inner “cat” within… and I’ve never been fond of cats! I think there must be an inner creature in all of us, just waiting to present itself! I wonder what mask you would wear, Lynda? Any thoughts?

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      1. I was thinking of Drew Barrymore in Ever After, but when I went looking for her mask picture she wasn’t wearing one! She had WINGS! Do wings count?

        If I were to choose an animal, well my first choice would be a giraffe. I love their eyelashes! Or, second choice a goose. 😉

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        1. Oh you can have wings or whatever you want! Ha ha! I think being a goose would be a lot of fun. They can be silly and do funny things and everyone loves them. Wouldn’t it be great to be loved by everyone? Now, a giraffe? I’d be hitting my head on EVERYTHING, and that never goes over very well with me!

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  5. I really LOVE that mask, I think you look like the “Lady of Mystery”, LOL. I guess I never realized you had such awful memories of Halloween, but I’m glad you’ve discovered it’s never too late to find that inner “character” in you! The old pictures are hilarious, and I especially like the paper sack costumes; I think it’s funny you could only see through one eye-hole at a time (those holes are so far apart 🙂 ). You absolutely MUST help me find a mask as “mysterious” as your’s (the feather one, of course)!

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    1. We will find a way to get you a FABULOUS feather mask, Baby Sister! Who knew these beautiful pieces existed? I had never seen one like this before. Thank you for providing me a photo of your “Humanoid” days… Gee, lucky you getting a store-bought outfit, and you picked a HUMANOID of all things! LOL Whatever planet you came from, I’m glad you chose our family! I love you, Jules.

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  6. The N American style of Hallowe’en – dressing up, playing tricks – is quite alien to me. I’m glad you’ve started to enjoy it, though.

    How weird that pirates were seen as neutral and inoffensive! It’s not so for people attacked by poverty-stricken Somalians.

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    1. I quite agree with you. Pirates have always been a horror in our history. I am still surprised that we celebrate pirates today. After the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movies came out, the pirate theme became very popular, even though it was more of a fantasy and adventure film about the often humorous, Captain Jack Sparrow. I find Halloween to be an unimportant celebration really. Even as a child, I found it foreign and silly.

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  7. Love, love, love!! I love how you describe the transformation you felt by putting on the mask and gloves, and how much fun you had with your photo shoot. I get the feeling you were empowered by the whole thing. This is such a great story, Lori. Thanks for sharing it with us. (Like you, I hide in the house on trick-or-treat night, but I just might have to go try on some masks to see if anything happens to me!) ~Kim

    P.S. You look great as a feathered feline!

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    1. Thank you so much Kim! What a wonderful and unexpected, (I love your word) EMPOWERING experience. Who knew a simple mask could transform me into a creature of the woods, and I would actually feel, as if I wore the skin of a feline? Pretty cool stuff!

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  8. It’s so nice you have childhood pictures like these (even if you hate them!). Seems like we all made paper sack masks! We didn’t get to wear costumes to school, but we did get to wear them to the Spaghetti dinner ( served by moms who made it all to raise money for the school every year) The trick was not getting tomato sauce on your costume. I was the youngest and had hand-me-down rather worn costumes…quickly sewed by my mom…and they faded more each year…until we decided to piece together our own – which was fine as she didn’t really have time to do it. But then once you were in 6th grade, you were considered too old to trick or treat – and had to hand out the candy.
    Great post – that’s one fabulous pix of you in that fabulous mask!

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    1. Thanks! Ah, the precious memories we have of Halloween! How funny about not getting tomato sauce on your costume!! It wasn’t all so bad, I guess. I do love the old photos, and now I can laugh about them.

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  9. So funny…..I put together that same gypsy costume more than one Halloween. What’s a girl to do when she’s part of a six child clan? Hobo too. Glad you finally got a beautiful mask.

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  10. I’m amazed by the work you do with animals- it’s fantastic. I am so glad there are people like you in the world.

    The green heron looks ever so much like our Bitterns over here in the UK.

    The deer are so beautiful!

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    1. Thank you, Rachel. I find it fascinating how animal life is so varied from region to region. Yet, some species are much the same. I’ll have to check out “bitterns” as I’ve never heard of that. Always learning something new, eh?

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