The Southern Humorists Present ...
Fall 2005 is Here!
There's nothing better than a Southern Autumn. Temperatures range from the mid 50's to the low 70's making it "open-winder" weather and comfortable for all our hay baling, harvesting, and Halloween fun. There's every flavor of football from NFL to backyard to watch, participate, tailgate and enjoy. So pull up a lawn chair and see what fall fun the Southern Humorists have for you! Thanks for readin', y'all!
Discussion on Waffle House | The Pep Talk | Trick or Treat, Smell My Feet | Cletus on Halloween | The Ultimate Urban Legend | That Ol' Casino Spirit: Halloween on the Hill | Pranksters Lay an Egg | Ghosts of Halloweens Past | My Presbyterian Halloween | Weighing in at the Fair | When the Air Turns Cool, the Men Turn Ridiculous | The Ghost of Cooter McGhee | Spooky Southern Recipes |
Southern Humorists Discuss the Waffle House Restaurant
Sheila Moss, "Well, I checked on eBay and found that Waffle House mugs do exist. Not only do they have the name Waffle House, but the logo as well. I thought the Waffle House was for cops, truck drivers, and sobering up after the bars close. Now I find out I've flunked out of redneck woman etiquette training. Although, I once dated a good ol' boy who always took me out to eat at the Waffle House. That's when I found out they actually serve meals other than breakfast. I guess if I'd married him, we would have had the reception at the Waffle House."
Dana, "I will always associate Waffle House with my first job. Not because I worked there, because I didn't, but because I had driven ten hours to Kissimmee, FL in order to start Disney's College Program and when I got there, our accomodations weren't open yet, so I went to the Waffle house on the corner and had my first breakfast away from home on my own. Whew! Did I say enough at once? ;)"
David Decker, "Around here some folks call it the 'Awful House.' An old Waffle House joke: If you assemble a ballroom full of Waffle House waitresses, whadda' ya' got? Almost a full set of teeth."
Angela Gillaspie, "My family never eats at Waffle House, but we like to play the Waffle House game when we're going on car trips. The first person to yell, 'Waffle House!' when that yellow and black Waffle House sign is visible gets two points. It's quite competitive (and annoying)."
Robin Reed, "I don't know how many you could fit in a ballroom. The WH waitresses I have seen tend towards the, let's say "full figured" side."
Mark Berryman, "All this Waffle House talk has got me hooongry! While we are at it.... for those who care to answer.... What is your favorite Waffle House meal? Mine is: Chris' Texas Cheesesteak Melt Plate, (Scattered-Smothered-Covered-Topped) and Mr. Pibb"
Ben Baker, "We're poor. We can't afford a Wapple House. We have Huddle House. Same restaurant, same food, same crew, different name."
David, "Ben, one of my first jobs was at a Huddle House in Atlanta. $1 per hour - washing dishes and mopping floors - cleaning up bathrooms, etc. First week there - worked 60 hours - brought home $57.00. Sounds like a writing job, eh? By the way, that wonderful two-way mirror in every Waffle/Huddle House - if you guys only knew what went on just on the other side of that mirror...Let me just put it this way...The hash browns ain't the only thing that's scattered and smothered...If ya' knows wuts ah meen?"
The Pep Talk
Okay, men, it's time for The Big Game. I want you to go out there today and knock 'em dead!
But ... Coach ...
No objections! We're a team! We need to act as a team! We need to play as a team!
But ... Coach ...
Remember, you have the power to win if you believe in yourself!
But ... Coach ...
Shut up! When the going gets tough, the tough get going!
But ... Coach ...
Yes, I know they beat us 35 to 0 the last time we played. That's behind us now! We are going out there to WIN this year!
But ... Coach ...
Yes, I know we have not won a single game all year. Today is the day we will turn that around!
But ... Coach ...
It's attitude, men, ATTITUDE! You have to have a winning attitude.
But ... Coach ...
See yourself as WINNER, not a loser. If you think you will lose, you will!
But ... Coach ...
QUIET! Don't let them force you into playing THEIR game! We've practiced OUR game! Now we have to go out there and PLAY our game!
But ... Coach ...
You know what the problem is? FEAR! You have to conquer fear! You have to conquer fear with practice, skill, knowledge, and experience! You have to control your fear instead of letting it control you!
But ... Coach ...
You are only as good as you think you are!
But ... Coach ...
Think positive! Think BIG! Think WIN!
But ... Coach ...
Yes, yes, I know they have not lost a single game in three seasons. So what? No one can win forever. Today will be the day that their winning streak ends. We can make that happen!
But ... Coach ...
With the right attitude, we can't lose! We must refuse to have an attitude of defeat!
But ... Coach ...
I said, NO OBJECTIONS! The trouble with you men is that you won't listen! You get a negative attitude and you won't listen!
But ... Coach ...
You cannot let the past determine the present! Just because they beat us every time we play does not mean they will beat us this time!
But ... Coach ...
We can't lose them all. The odds of winning are in our favor now. We can do it! We're a team! We are winners! Never forget it!
But ... Coach ...
Why do you keep interrupting me? How can I motivate the team when you keep interrupting me? What is it? What is your problem?
But ... Coach ...The Big Game is NEXT week! It's the WRONG DAY!
Copyright 2002 Sheila Moss
"TRICK or TREAT!"
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Trick or Treat Smell My Feet
The way we observe Halloween has really changed over the years. Nowadays, you either love it, hate it, celebrate it or hardly notice it.
Back when I was young, Halloween was so simple. There wasn't any occult hoo-doo scary stuff, but just obnoxious silliness and fun. When I dressed up as a Barbie Princess or Glenda the Good Witch, my thoughts weren't on death or the spirits of departed relatives but on candy, a cute boy in my class and did I mention candy?
Oh the candy. About 2/3 of my loot was Milk Duds, Goobers, Gold Rush bubble gum, candy necklaces, Chick-o-stick, Pixie Sticks, Sweetarts, wax lips, a few Charleston Chews, Boston Baked Beans, Hot Dog gum, and my favorite, Atomic Fire Balls. I hated Boston Beans and Chick-o-stick - talk about gross! The rest of my plunder was homemade treats like candied or caramel apples, Rice Krispy treats, oranges, cupcakes, cookies, and homemade fudge. The only time my parents checked my candy was to eat the chocolate. We knew our neighbors and the only worrisome things were Old Mrs. Ethel's brownies which were more salty than sweet.
I never liked saying, "Trick or treat!" to our neighbors when we visited them on Halloween, and I never said, "Trick or treat, smell my feet," either. My older sister, Sherri finally explained it to me one time that when we say, "Trick or treat!" the people must give us candy or we get to perform a trick. I mentioned that I didn't know any magic tricks, and Sherri laughed, "No, not that kind of trick. A trick like soaping their windows or rolling their yard with toilet paper."
That sounded mean and I'd feel funny soaping Granny's windows because she'd make me clean it up. Sherri just smiled that evil smile of hers and left the room. Luckily, I never used my soap while Trick-or-treating.
My costumes were thin shiny polyester, and the masks were molded plastic with a tiny rubber band that held it to your head. I always wanted to be something beautiful like a princess, fairy or angel.
After Daddy took us trick-or-treating for an hour or so, he'd drop us off at Cohutta Elementary School's carnival. There was bobbing for apples, fishing for prizes, the duck pond, ring toss, basketball toss, and my favorite - the cake walk. One year I won three cakes! There was also a haunted house for the older kids. When I finally got old enough to visit the haunted house, I discovered that it was basically a small area in the boys' locker room with fake spider webs, black construction paper, creepy noises, lots of hanging crepe paper, and kids that jumped out at you yelling, "Booga! Booga!"
We never really decorated our house for Halloween, but usually carved a pumpkin. There were a couple of years that Daddy toyed around with playing scary music when people walked up to the door, but the trick-or-treaters weren't scared because they heard Daddy's giggles over the grunts and groans on the Halloween tape.
When I reached the old age of 13, I decided that I was too old to dress up for Halloween and wouldn't be caught dead trick-or-treating with my baby sister Traci. When Traci asked me why I didn't dress up, I thought I'd get back at her for various infractions like tying up the phone line, touching my stuff and breathing, so I said, "I'm too old to go trick-or-treating. Only babies dress up and go trick-or-treating."
Well, Sherri and Momma took Traci trick-or-treating and boy did she get me back. She came home with two full-sized grocery sacks full of delicious sweet joy. She chewed, chomped and slurped like there was no tomorrow. I had to wheel and deal to get some of her candy, so I let Traci play with my coveted Malibu Barbie so her Ken doll would have a new Barbie to date. I no longer played with Barbies, but some things have value - especially when another family member wanted them.
Traci gave me a handful of Sweetarts, two containers of Chick-lets and seven Tootsie Roll pops. Sherri walked in, hugged Traci and then promptly received half of Traci's candy. My mouth dropped open and the caramel flavored Tootsie Roll pop that I just bribed off Traci fell out. Sherri smiled one of her patented evil smiles and winked at me. Ah, that's why she went along trick-or-treating.
Nothing ever gets by Momma. She saw what happened and repeated one of her favorite sayings, "See? You get more flies with sugar than with vinegar."
Of course she was right. Plus I took great comfort in the fact that she said Traci was a fly and that Sherri ate bugs.
Unlike the Halloweens of today, those Halloweens were so simple. The only violence was the sisterly wrath of hair-pulling, Indian-burn-giving and fork-throwing fun.
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Cletus on Halloween
The Ultimate Urban Legend
I know this guy whose neighbor, a young man, was home recovering from having been served a rat in his bucket of fried chicken. To make matters worse, on the way home he stopped and bought a drink at a service station and found a finger in the bottle.
Can you believe his luck because he was still in mourning for his girlfriend who died from massive black widow spider bites after a female nested in her hair-sprayed hair and laid eggs, which hatched and bit her to death. She was bitten the day after Halloween, which they spent in the hospital because he'd been cut by a razor someone shoved in an apple. She was in the hospital recovering from a near-fatal overdose of Pop Rocks which exploded in her stomach, tearing it open.
You might know this guy's brother, he's the diver who went to the bottom at Hoover Dam and saw those giant catfish, one of which attacked him and tore his leg almost off right below the knee. That was after this guy had survived an attack by a giant ball of water moccasins in the same river. But the incident at the hospital on Halloween was just before the guy was fired from major US Corporation for leaking the story that the Moon and Stars symbol is actually a Satanic Reference because the company is owned by the Ku Klux Klan. While at the company he was in charge of putting LSD on kiddie temporary tattoos that Anti-Castro operatives based in Miami and trained by the military would use when they held infant sacrifice rituals. He planned to get rich, though, by selling the Nieman Marcus cookie recipe over the Internet for $10.
He had just about saved enough money to buy his girlfriend a fur coat at that place just down the road from his house, but it's a good thing he didn't because the week he got fired, the place was raided and police discovered a German shepherd slaughterhouse in the back. The coats were being made from the dogs and carcasses sold to an oriental restaurant on the other side of town.
His girlfriend had divorced her husband last year after he dumped a truckload of cement into some other guy's new convertible. Her ex thought she and the convertible owner were sleeping together, but they weren't; he just ran out of gas in front of their house. The convertible was a prize that guy won in a radio contest by deciphering the backward-recorded subliminal messages on some John Denver records that Elvis dropped off at the station a few weeks earlier.
One day he went to sleep and when he awoke he was in his bathtub and it was full of ice and he was sore all over. When he got out of the tub he saw a note taped to the mirror saying that he needed to call 911 immediately because one of his kidneys had been removed and stolen.
But he was afraid to use his phone because it was connected to his computer, and there was a virus on his computer that would destroy his hard drive if he opened an e-mail entitled "Join the crew!" He'd been afraid to access his email for along time anyway because of the PENPAL GREETINGS! Trojan horse virus that duplicated itself and emailed itself to everybody on his address list without his knowledge. He knew it wasn't a hoax because he was a computer programmer who was working on software to save us from a new Dark Ages when the year 2000 rolls around and every utility company closes down leaving us all in the dark as every plane in the air crashes and all elevators everywhere get stuck between floors at the stroke of midnight, Dec. 31, 1999.
The program could have prevented a global disaster in which all the computers get together and distribute the $300 Nieman Marcus cookie recipe under the leadership of Bill Gates. Gates told me about this in an email promising me a free Disney World vacation and $5,000 if I would forward the e-mail to everyone I know, except I don't like to handle cash because the back of US money contains hidden messages and Latin phrasing put there by the government-running coalition of Jews, international bankers, Trilateral Commission, the Illuminati, the New World Order, Jerry Falwell, right wing militias, Planned Parenthood, thinly disguised Civil Rights groups and the American Civil Liberties union.
It wouldn't have mattered if he had called just then, because half the crews were busy at a house across town where a babysitter had shoved a baby in microwave to dry the infant after its bath; that was same microwave in which a poodle had exploded only the week before. The other half were at a house a few blocks away trying to figure out what to do with the girl who stayed under the sunlamp so long it cooked her insides.
Anyway, this guy left his house to find help and was narrowly missed by a cow dropped out of a Russian cargo plane, the crew of which picked up the cow to take it home for a BBQ. But the cow got nervous and started wrecking things so they had to throw it out.
The poor man then tried to call 911 from a pay phone to report his missing kidneys, but while reaching into the coin-return slot to get the quarter after if didn't feed right he got jabbed with an HIV-infected needle around which was wrapped a note that said, "Welcome to the world of AIDS."
Luckily he was only a few blocks from the hospital - the one, actually, where that little boy who is dying of cancer is, the one whose last wish is for everyone in the world to send him an e-mail and the American Cancer Society has agreed to pay him a nickel for every e-mail he receives.
I sent him two e-mails and one of them was a bunch of x's and o's in the shape of an angel (if you get it and forward it to twenty people you will have good luck but ten people you will only have OK luck and if you send it to less than ten people you will have bad luck for seven years).
So anyway the poor guy tried to drive himself to the hospital. He used the Jet-Assisted Take-Off engine he stole from the nearby military base to pick up some speed. He started going so fast, he burned the brakes right off the car and then the car left the ground and started flying. He was in the air, and so unable to stop to pick up the vanishing hitchhiker.
Just before he crashed into a nearby cliff, he noticed another car driving with the lights off. To be helpful, he flashed his lights at the car and was promptly shot as part of a gang initiation. The gang was the same group of alien-human crossbred CIA operatives that shot JFK and then had to kill dozens more people to cover up the crime.
Police officers from Area 51 in Dreamland investigated the wreck and shooting and found an alien's prosthetic hook on the door handle.
If he had just listened to his psychic buddy (the one that bends spoons with his mind) who told him all this was going to happen, he wouldn't have bought that new SUV to take fishing to that hidden pond. He took his favorite laborador retriever along, but forgot about that when he threw a stick of dynamite to kill the fish. The dog brought back the dynamite and blew up the truck, nearly killing him. The truck was an experimental model that got 100 miles to the gallon by using a perpetual motion device.
He'd have been even closer to the hospital if he lived on the poor side of town, but he didn't want to because the city charges those residents more for water, sewer and electricity than the city charged the rich people. What really caps the whole matter is that we know the Y1K problem caused the Dark Ages and without this guy's help, we're going back to the Dark Ages.
If, for some reason, you found this moderately interesting*, you may continue to get irregular ramblings by this writer by hitting this link firstname.lastname@example.org * even if you did not find it moderately interesting, the link will still work.
That Ol' Casino Spirit: Halloween on the Hill
"I do believe in spooks, I do believe in spooks, I do I do..." So goes the quote by the Cowardly Lion from the imaginative movie The Wizard of Oz. As we approach Halloween this first full year of the new Millennium, not a bad quote to begin with. Particularly since, as I've learned, getting into the spirit of things at local casinos in Central City and Black Hawk, Colorado, isn't strictly limited to Halloween.
The spirits were there, first. And depending on whom you ask, 'they' still are.
Historically, Central City and Black Hawk were both founded around 1859-60, and were one of several western North American magnets serving to attract gold fortune seekers from all over, much as California before, and the Canadian Yukon Territory would, later. At one time, Central City was touted as "the richest square mile on Earth". Black Hawk countered by calling themselves "the hippest square mile on Earth", indicative of a fierce competitive spirit not unlike the feuding Hatfields and McCoys: a feud which goes on to this day, but I digress.
Before limited stakes gaming was legalized by the voters of Colorado in 1990, the two towns (and their more south companion, Cripple Creek), were in an economic morass, with historic, if worn and crumbling infrastructure, few jobs, and little to save their apparent decline toward potential bankruptcy. Many of the buildings in the two towns dated to near their founding, though some were rebuilt after the devastating fire in 1873. With voter approval of gaming for the selected three towns, it was hoped that a new economic life would be breathed into the towns, and a renovation of their historic spirit and vitality would result.
Historic structures, such as the Gilpin Hotel in Black Hawk and the Teller House in Central City (now closed) saw a reversal of fortune, as another gold rush -- in the form of limited stakes gaming -- awakened the slumbering economies of the towns in October of 1991.
But that isn't all it awakened.
A good deal of the research for what follows is based on historical records, eye-witness accounts, local gossip, rumors, and some pretty convincingly-told folklore. Stories about things not easily explained. Stories that have, down the years, made for the classic ingredients of chilling campfire tales, or the seeds of bed time nightmares for children. Stories about things generally made frightful or fanciful by such master scary story tellers as Edgar Allen Poe, Bram Stoker, Mary Shelley, Stephen King, Rod Serling or the Hillary in 2008 Presidential campaign.
Maybe that last is too scary for even herein, but I digress again.
At any rate, many locals here claim knowledge of, or encounters with, the afterworld. Practically all of the older, original buildings in the two towns are reputed to be haunted: some by more than one spirit. Even a few of the newer facilities, built adjacent to older buildings, or gouged out of the mountainsides, have not remained immune: many a mine shaft was uncovered and filled in during the excavation processes for several new construction sites. Shafts that may have claimed a few lives 140 years ago, and remained "home" to those spirits, until progress brought them abruptly into the modern world.
Perhaps these rumored spirits are local inhabitants dating to the towns' earlier heydays; and now, they're timeless and almost invisible entities, occasionally seen as shadowy images and fleeting figures. Earth-bound souls, somehow tied to places they knew and loved, or perhaps met tragic ends in.
OR, they are alcohol/drug induced hallucinations, if not the product of overactive imaginations. Something like the notion of a kinder, gentler IRS.
I have worked in the casinos of Central City since 1992. Each of those I have worked in have their own "ghost stories", as related by other employees that I've worked with or interviewed for this article. In all that time -- from 1992 to the present -- I have yet to experience anything I'll concede is or was remotely paranormal. True, I've come across the random gaming customer who claims to receive radio waves from space, or carries on multiple conversations with inanimate objects about the zen of salvaged dinner scraps from a restaurant. But up to now, I have never seen anything that a few beers couldn't help me explain to someone else who'd had a few more.
That said, I'll add that I don't casually dismiss the anecdotes of some of my interviewees, either. More than a few of them I know to be quite credible folks, and not under the immediate care of their local casino pharmacist (aka bartender), before or during the interview. The overwhelming opinion of my interviewees is that most, if not all, of the casinos in Central City and Black Hawk are haunted. In general, by spirits that are gentle, peaceful, inquisitive and even fun-loving. In a couple of cases, however, the anecdotes speak to something a bit more tragic...and darkly ominous.
With the exception of documented encounters, I'll withhold the names of the establishments and the interviewees, because most of what I'm about to relate cannot be independently verified (each and every ghost I tried contacting for follow-up interviews failed to return my calls). I will note names and places where and when appropriate. Regrettably, I have more anecdotes than space to relate them all, so I'll give you a collection of "the best of", so to spook.
The first anecdote occurred in the parking lot above the now-closed Teller House, back in 1995: the witness pulled into the lot, and stopped to back into a parking space, when "out of absolutely nowhere", a bent old man comes walking across in front of the witness's car. The man appeared to be dressed like an old 19th Century prospector; he walked across in front of the vehicle, totally oblivious to it, and disappeared as quickly as he had appeared.
What affected the witness most, however, was the fact that his vehicle headlights shone through the man as he passed in front of the vehicle.
Staying with the Teller House, there are believed to be several ghosts who call the Teller House "home" (my thanks to both Dorothy Spellman and Mary Taitt for providing me with a written precis of these reported spirits). Three are of particular interest: Red Rosie, Bill Hamilton, and The Blonde Lady from the 3rd Floor.
According to the precis, Red Rosie had survived a small pox epidemic that killed 70 persons in the valley in 1901, and volunteered as a nurse to tend to the stricken who were put up in the Teller House (it became an improvised hospital at the time). Referred to afterward by many as "an angel or a saint", years after her passing, Red Rosie came back to the Teller House, and lives on there today: she is reportedly seen on occasion as a reflection in a mirror, located somewhere within the Teller House.
Bill Hamilton is described as a genial Irishman who was something of a backstage manager of the Central City Opera House in the 1930s, providing security to such entertainment luminaries as Lillian Gish and Mae West. He was also the caretaker of the silver ingots which were laid in front of the Teller House at that time. Hamilton was known in his day as a great teller of stories, and had a matching sense of humor, which remains evident according to several anecdotes: bartenders reported having been 'grabbed' when retrieving bar supplies from storage, and he once scared the wits out of a female employee by appearing to her, seated on a case of beer. When she screamed, he vanished, but immediately thereafter, the unmistakable smell of pipe tobacco was reported by the employee and those who responsed to her scream (Hamilton was, among other things, a lover of a "good pipe"). And a number of employees reported having smelled pipe tobacco when no one with a pipe was anywhere to be seen in the casino.
Finally, the Blonde Lady from the 3rd Floor. According to the information, it is believed that "her husband committed suicide after punching her." Apparently, many guests have heard her on the 3rd Floor, moaning and sobbing in the wake of his suicide.
Several other now-closed casinos have their reported ghosts: in one, it has been reported that surveillance video actually caught a picture of an 'image', standing in an aisle of slot machines after closing, as if someone were examing the machines. When security responded to check, no one was found, and the 'image' was no longer on camera. On another occasion, a shadow passed over a slot employee: again, the incident was alleged to have been caught on tape, as well as was when a bulletin board, hung on an interior wall in a stairway, was seen to suddenly rise straight out from the wall and drop to the floor.
Another casino has at least two identified ghosts: one is referred to as "John", and is reportedly a seasonal visitor. Now closed, the casino employees reportedly knew when "John" was in, and particularly when he was upset: one morning, every knife in the restaurant kitchen was found, point-first in the floor. The other ghost -- known as the Lady in Black -- visited a construction worker during the pre-opening renovation phase of this casino in 1992. He related working on the second floor, when he noticed a woman in a long, unfamiliar fashion black dress, watching him. When he asked what she was doing there, she turned and walked into the wall, vanishing.
He took the rest of the job off.
One Central City casino, still open, has at least three ghosts in residence: one is reportedly a tall cowboy, attired in the traditional hat and linen duster. He was seen in a mirror by one of the building owners, prior to the casino's opening in 1991. He related "feeling a presence over his left shoulder", and looked up into a mirror across the room, seeing the apparition. When he turned, there was no one there. After the casino opened, a cocktail waitress claimed that someone "tried to push her out a second story window" -- yet no one was within 10 feet of her at the time. And a graveyard shift janitor also claims to have had a 'running battle' with the ghost or "ghosts", over turning the game arcade machines on and off after closing. He'd shut the games off; suddenly, the games would come back on.
He was the only non-ghost in the building at the time.
As noted earlier, new construction in the two towns has proven not immune to spirited visitations, either: a valet employee of a newly-built casino (fall of '94) claimed to have seen a little boy in the valet parking garage; when the employee approached the boy, the boy turned and ran into the wall, disappearing. A security officer also reported encountering a man and woman just outside the stairwell of the hotel portion of the casino: both were reportedly in late 19th Century dress, and the woman was crying. When the security officer approached to see if she could help, the man visually bade her to step back, which she did.
The officer could see through the man and woman, to the wall.
At another casino -- with a new construction built onto an original building -- drop and count team members reported being "pelted" by empty coin cans, in the count room, by their casino ghost.
It's a good thing the ghost didn't use the full ones.
One anecdote doesn't involve a casino, but an under-renovation theatre in Central City, the Belvidere: a cocktail waitress showed me a picture she'd taken of a piano on the stage in the theatre; the picture was taken in the presence of other friends and family. My waitress friend asserts that no one was sitting at the piano when the picture was taken.
But someone was sitting there in the picture: a woman in Victorian attire. A woman you could see through in the picture.
Lastly, from a casino in Black Hawk: once again, an anecdote that is alleged to have been seen on surveillance video tape. When this particular casino closed at night, no one would remain on site. The alarm system was set, and the surveillance system was running. When the first employees arrived the next morning, they found a slot machine in jackpot mode, as if it had just been played and hit.
A review of the surveillance tape showed that nothing was amiss up to an hour after the last person had left the night before; then, suddenly, the slot machine handle depresses (as if pulled down), the reels spun, and the top-pay jackpot came up on the machine, activating the overhead flashing candle.
No slot tech I've ever spoken with has suggested that this type of slot machine can do this without someone (or thing) pulling down that handle.
And there are many, many more stories.
So...believe what you will this Halloween. Believe in or deny the hereafter. Acknowledge that sudden, chilling feeling that you're not alone, or dismiss it as an explainable anomaly. Whatever your persuasion, if you visit a casino in Central City or Black Hawk, and think that you feel the presence of something, you might just be right.
It just might be Lady Luck.
Or the Lady in Black.
Of course, writer Mike Bay has never experienced anything akin to what he relates; but he's pretty good at denial.
Pranksters Lay an Egg
Author's note: This is a story from my youth. I was pretty dumb as a youth. If you're a youth, don't do this. If you're grown up, odds are you did something even dumber ...
Mom wouldn't let me buy eggs.
"What are you doing with those?" she asked me, a 13-year-old seventh grader wearing a Son of Frankenstein T-shirt who had no business buying eggs - for himself - at the local grocery store.
"Uh, nothing," I lied.
It was the day before Halloween.
I was going to go trick-or-treating with a couple of buddies you couldn't trust to wipe poop off their shoes before walking into your house.
And my mom wasn't stupid.
"I know what you're thinking," she said, taking the carton out of my hands and putting it back in the cooler. "And you're not buying eggs."
"But," I protested weakly, much like The Beaver did when Ward and June caught him doing something stupid - in every episode, "I've got my own money."
She gave me the "don't give me that crap" mom-look and I folded like a lawn chair.
Rats. Foiled again by every teenager's arch enemy - a parent.
Thirteen is a weird age for Halloween.
It's too old to trick-or-treat, and it's too young to go to a party that means anything to anybody who hadn't gone through puberty - and I hadn't.
I wasn't going to stay at home on the coolest non-going-to-church holiday of them all. So I made trick-or-treating plans - devious ones.
Sneaking one egg out of the house was easy. That's all I was brave enough to take.
One egg. Heck, dad could have eaten that at any time and mom wouldn't even know. She wouldn't miss just one egg, right?
I put my one, ill-gotten egg in the breast pocket of my Groucho Marx costume - OK, I was kind of a geek as a kid - and I went to meet my buddies. They were all going to have a whole dozen eggs, each egg with a teacher's name on it.
I met them in an alley behind our small town's only restaurant.
There was a werewolf, a swashbuckler and the Flash, each armed with an empty pillow case and at least a dozen ...
"Hey," I said. "Where are your eggs?"
We'd planned this night for weeks. We were going to each of our teachers' homes. We were going to take candy from them. Then, we were going to take our vengeance on the sadistic monsters who made us learn fractions, parallelograms and - good God - how to diagram a sentence.
And nobody had eggs.
"Our moms caught us," the werewolf said.
Wussies, I thought.
We had an egg. One egg. One egg for the whole group. I was the king.
"Take a look at this," I said, producing the egg. "We're armed."
I gripped the egg in my right hand. It was the only ammunition the group had, and I had to protect it ... then I tripped on a spot on the sidewalk where growing tree roots had broken through. My fist instinctively tensed, and I felt something wet in my hand.
I opened my hand slowly. The egg was cracked, but still throwable. We had to act fast.
"Which house is closest?" I asked.
"The music teacher's."
Chuck lost at rock/paper/scissors, so he had to knock on the door.
He knocked once.
He knocked twice.
Then the door opened and the music teacher came out.
A little farther, I thought, rearing back. Just a bit ...
Then he stepped onto the porch to drop a full-sized Snickers bar into Chuck's pillowcase.
"Go, Jason," the werewolf whispered.
And I threw, the leaking white of the raw egg sending the spinning projectile slightly off course.
"Duck, Chuck," I screamed as the egg hit Chuck in the head.
Then the rest of us ran away like girls.
Gosh, kids are dumb.
Copyright 2004 by Jason Offutt
Ghosts of Halloweens Past
Halloween is of course different for adults than it is for kids, and different again for me in that I'm celebrating a Fall holiday in a slightly warmer climate than before. But still. And I'm not just being grumpy about the time I personally saw a couple of ten- or twelve-year-old boys buying personal-consumption candy at about 4 PM Halloween day.
Oh, there have been moments, such as the time I stopped at a commercial "pumpkin patch," complete with decorative dried cornstalks and hay bales, and watched in amusement as a piglet untied my shoelace. And every now and then I see a kid or even an adult with a really great costume. But it isn't really the same.
Halloween in the Bay Area - actually, to some degree Halloween anywhere in California - was an uncertain business, weatherwise. It rarely if ever actually rained on Halloween, but the daytime temperature could range from the fifties to the eighties. This could cause some consternation as regards costume-planning. A ghost could, if necessary, bundle up under his costume, but was almost as likely to get a bit overheated as to need the extra layers. On the other hand, a diaper-and-undershirt-clad overgrown baby was pretty much out of luck if the night proved a cold one. Yet I don't recall anyone making/buying two costumes, one "cold" and one "hot," to cover both bases. It wasn't in the, ah, spirit of the thing. It also would have meant more work, of course, but the spirit was the main thing.
And the spirit, in a way, was everywhere. No "frost on the pumpkins;" what frost we'd get would arrive later, in the winter, and there weren't really any pumpkins for it to gather on anyway. But we had bare trees and fallen leaves of a satisfactory mix of yellow, red, and purple. We had a crispness in the air and a smell, some evenings, of fireplace smoke. We had a welcome increase in maternal cookie-baking, and black cats took on a sudden significance. Cardboard witches and skeletons appeared in windows and on doors, jack-o'-lanterns of various materials grinned or scowled from the insides or outsides of houses, and headstones sprouted from lawns. It was not only autumn. It was Halloween.
The way I remember it, the costumes were more exciting than the candy. Even if you went the cheesy store-bought route, with the flimsy two-dimensional costumes made of a material never used for any other purpose on this planet and the stiff, funny-smelling mask with the eyeholes that were never in quite the right place, despite the fact that you were supposed to be a beautiful princess. Still. It was a costume, and for a night you were that princess, or that pirate, or tiger, or hobo. Something you had chosen - or at least consented - to be, and not your usual everyday mere-kid self.
And there were the other kids' costumes. From an earlier age than one might expect I began electing to stay home and give out candy so that I could see them all, even forsaking the one or two "scary" houses where the grownups had rigged up special, eerie surprises. I have fond memories of some of my own costumes, such as the leopard, the gypsy, the Bride of Dracula who looked, much to her chagrin, uncommonly like the ghost with our teacher's face who taught our class that day. But I also remember some of my brother's creations. One year he borrowed one of my clip-on earrings and went as a Hare Krishna. Another year he went as half of a pair of conjoined, or as we'd have said then, "Siamese" twins, with a somewhat embarrassed friend who was apparently elected because he was very nearly my brother's physical opposite. (They were both male, but of different sizes, shapes, and races. Plus, as I said, my brother's friend was a bit embarrassed.)
I confess it was my idea, though, the year he made himself a straitjacket from an old sheet. It was a great costume, with one drawback that didn't occur to me - or to him either - until it was too late; with his arms wrapped around him he couldn't hold his treats bag. I think he tried holding it in his mouth, and finally had a friend hold it for him. It was his own fault. He asked me if I had any ideas he could use.
I'd be just as happy to give him such advice now, but of course he doesn't ask for any. We're grown up now, and as far as I know he doesn't dress any differently on Halloween than he does the day before. Though, come to think of it, a lot of kids do start dressing up a few days before Halloween. Anyway, I know I don't get nearly as involved as I used to, or even as involved as I would now if we ever had any trick-or-treaters in this neighborhood. Though there is, this year, a boy of borderline Halloweening age in our building. And I do have a dusty witch's hat. Still, it won't be the same.
Even if he doesn't demand candy in broad afternoon.
S. D. Youngren is the author of the fiction Web site "Rowena's Page," http://sdy.org/rowena/, and of the paperback Rowena Gets a Life, which is comprised of stories from the site. She was born and raised in San Jose, California, and now lives with her husband and cat in Los Angeles, where some people wear costumes every day.
My Presbyterian Halloween
My eight-year-old son loves scary movies. Never mind that he can't even go to the bathroom alone for a week afterward. I'm no stranger to that pee-in-your-pants thrill of fright either. So, I decide to rent a selection of appropriate movies for the Halloween weekend. I went to a video store that specializes in older movies because they offer a better price and longer rental period. After finding the appropriate aisles I begin my selection process.
I walk past the mutilation, chainsaw and gore flicks. I'm looking for something of some substance, a story line perhaps and not so much blood. I pick up the case for Bram Stoker's The Mummy and the owner says, "Ooops. I better take that outta there. We don't have it." Okay, I'm a little disappointed. I heard the special effects were great. After about 20 minutes of looking over faded and worn video covers I make my way to the counter with my selections: The Omen, The Exorcist, The Frighteners and Tales From the Hood. I pay my $8 and head home. Sheesh. The light in that place must be really bad. When I take the movies out of the bag at home I find that what I have really rented is The Omen, XVII--Damien Tries Viagra and The Exorcist 14--you know, the one where Linda Blair is so old she pees on the carpet, in her bed and on the floor in the grocery store.
I am still undaunted in my quest to have a wonderful Halloween this year and begin preparations for the Trunk or Treat we will have Sunday night at church. This is the first time I have ever attended any sort of Halloween festivity at a church. The children, we are told, should wear their costumes and arrive around 5:30 pm for games and snacks. At 7:00 pm the church family will offer treats from the trunks of their cars in the parking lot. So, there I am packing up my glow in the dark bats, my gargoyle with the red blinking eyes and my crow with the green blinking eyes that cries "caw" when you walk past. I am giddy with anticipation as I find my Halloween bowl with glow in the dark design to use for the candy. My son eyes me carefully.
"Mom, what am I supposed to wear to this thing?"
He carefully considers the bleeding skull mask with glow in the dark skeleton hands and ax we picked out for him at Wal-Mart. "Uh, I don't think it's appropriate, Mom."
I stop and think a minute. "Well, you're not wearing it in the Sanctuary!" But he has a point.
We are relatively new members to the Presbyterian Church. One of the things that attracted me most to them is that they are more accepting and less restrictive than most other faiths in this area. I feel as though I could call the pastor and tell him I had been invited to hang out with the Wiccans and Pagans for the Autumn Solstice and he would congratulate me on being open-minded and broadening my scope of spiritual experiences. I love that man. Still....a bleeding skull may be a bit much. I break down and call the church office.
"Lois, about this Halloween thing....." I ask the secretary, "What kind of costumes should the kids wear? My son is a little concerned about his bleeding skull mask."
"Oh, my word. A bleeding skull? I should say not. I think they are supposed to dress as Bible characters."
I am glad she cannot see my eyes rolling. "Lois, you're Baptist, aren't you?"
I hang up dejected. My son searches my face for an answer. "Look," I tell him with false enthusiasm, "I've got a great idea for a John the Baptist costume!"
His cheeks redden and his eyes fill with tears. I grab the phone and call the church's youth director at home. "The kids should wear whatever they want," she tells me, "Halloween is about fun!" And so it is!
She's going to have a coffin in HER trunk! God, I love being Presbyterian!
Marta Martin's home on the web: www.wheresmypants.net
Weighing in at the Fair
I have been to the North Carolina State Fair for I'd say 5 consecutive years. For those of you who pick up on nuances of context, you can count that to a clue as to where I live. You can assume that I am not going to travel for hours on end to see the same thing I have seen for the past 5 consecutive years. You can pretty much bet that I am not going to travel for more than a few minutes. The allure of pigs racing for oreos dies after 4 years.
I had not planned on going this year, as I had not planned on going for four of the past five consecutive years. The problem is I inevitably get a call from a friend or family member who is going, and I, having no life, go along.
I must admit, it takes very little urging to get me to go. It's not the Duck races, as enticing as they are. I have a weakness. it is like the three stooges routine whenever Niagara Falls is mentioned; slowly I turned, step by step....
I have a competitive streak towards the barkers and games. As soon as it is mentioned that an excuse arises to go to the fair, I start devising new strategies to win a fifty cent stuffed animal for a two-dollar game. The ring toss is a warm up. I consider it mostly luck, especially since I never win. It is also the cheapest at ten rings for a dollar. I never feel like I have wasted my last dollar when I can toss the last ring and watch it bounce off the barkers bald head, but even then I wish I had a dime to toss one more ring onto the finger which he decided to show me.
I prefer the games of skill. The mind games if you will, in which you pay a guy two dollars to guess either your birth date to within a month before or after, your age within two years, or your weight to within four pounds. I automatically eliminate the birth date option; he has a 25% chance of guessing right. I figure this option is for the women who pressured to play by there significant others, would rather pay two dollars then to have either their age or their weight announced over a loud speaker. Being in my twenties and in peak physical condition I am proud to have my weight and age announced to all in earshot, it's like paying two dollars for a cheap personal ad, after all, there is usually one or two good looking girls in the thousands in attendance.
The weight guessing game is my strength. I look like I weigh more than I do. The first year I was tempted to play by the chance to win an inflatable Braves baseball bat. I shall note that that was the prize every year until this one, evidently the way the Braves are exhibiting themselves in the playoffs, the inflatable bat makers now wait before running the World Series surplus. The first year I won, so did my friend. Our bats lasted about two hours as we attempted to do battle.
The next year rolls around, and of course I have to get another bat to root the braves on through yet another post season series. Like the braves, I lost.
The barker touched my shoulder. I would like to assume that he is an orthopedic surgeon in the off-fair season; he was an expert at estimating weight based on bone structure.
The next year, I wore a bulky shouldered jacket. He touched my elbow. I lost again.
I went to the fair with a 1 and 3 record on weight guessing. I step up to the carni, "weight, age, or birth date," He asks?
"Age," I coldly reply.
I had a new strategy. I was wearing light clothes, so the risk of inappropriate touching was high, even for the fair. I hadn't shaved in 2 days. Everybody tells me I look older than I am, for instance, the movie places who don't give the discount when showing my ten year old college ID.
He writes his guess. Over the loudspeaker, I disclose my age, marital status, Zodiac sign, and hobbies. He may have guessed my age exactly, but Emma Lou Mae Brown with the prize-winning turkey from Pollustris County said she'd call me. Just as soon as she gets a phone. I won!
When the Air Turns Cool, the Men Turn Ridiculous
There is a brisk feeling to the air that stirs the blood of man. No, it's not an iced tea ad and no, it doesn't stir the blood of women nearly as much. It's fall. That means it is time once again for men to go nuts.
The first sign of fall that causes most members of the male species to lose all sense of sanity and reality is the great American pastime known as football. While there have been summer football leagues and other attempts at the manliest of manly sports, none quite live up to that of fall football.
Where else, other than the good ol' USA can you find a herd of guys sitting around a glowing box screaming at a herd of guys hunkered over an air-filled bladder covered in hogs hide beating each other senseless in order to keep the other team from crossing a line.
The herds of hunkered men all have macho names which are intended to strike fear in their opponents. They have names like Rams, Lions, Raiders or Eagles. Well, most of them. Some have terrifying names such as Cardinals, Saints or Browns. Yes, beware the color brown!
Want to know why there are no women professional football players? Is it that women are not tough enough? Is it that women aren't strong enough? Just look at the explanation of the game above and it's perfectly clear. Women have more sense than that. Yes, there are women football fans, but they pale in comparison to men.
Men will get up at the crack of dawn, load the SUV full of supplies such as weiners, beer, soda, chips, beer, hamburgers, beans, beer, ribs, potato salad, beer, and styrofoam hands displaying the number one sign in their teams colors. They will also pack beer.
Some will dress in bizarre costumes comprised of rainbow colored afro-styled clown hair and naked torsos with a letter of the alphabet painted in team colors that spell P-C-R-K-E-S They were supposed to spell out Packers, but Ted, who was to be the letter "A" had to go to the outlet mall with his wife instead of the game and letter "R" George refused to move because his ticket said that he was supposed to be in seat 13 and the R spot is in seat 15.
They then drive from near and far to the stadium, arriving hours early so that they may set up the grills, the coolers, the canopy, the folding chairs, the banners and the folding table.
Men will then sit around until just before game time, stuffing themselves with food and beverages, boasting of how their team will be victorious and touting all of the assets of "their guys." As game time approaches, they then have to repack the SUV with the leftover weiner buns (Bubba chose to show how he could have beaten the World Champion Weiner Eating Champion by consuming three packs of hot dogs sans buns in 2 minutes and 37 seconds). They will also repack the empty beer cans, the soda, the empty chip bags, the coolers, the chairs, the table, the banners and the canopy.
The styrofoam hands will accompany them into the stadium.
Others who could not actually go to the game form their own herds of grunting and bellowing men. They will gather at the home of whoever owns the largest television set, performing pretty much the same ritual as those at the game.
As the game progresses these herds of men will become agitated. They will begin to scream, to yell, to cheer, to frantically wave their styrofoam hand and to lose total control as their team plays the game.
The herds will gather on Saturdays and Sundays throughout the fall and the winter to repeat these time-tested feats of wonder and amazement. They will also go deer hunting, but that's for another time.
Author Mark Berryman is a reporter and columnist for the Franklin County Citizen and The News Leader. Along with this site, his work can be found at FranklinCountyCitizen.com and also at CowboyMark.com. You may contact him at CowboyMark@cowboymark.com.
The Ghost of Cooter McGhee
One summer, while I was on vacation from college, I went to visit my grandparent's farm. All day long I sat soaking in the beauty of the magnolias in bloom and did absolutely nothing. Just as my boredom became unbearable, my grandfather walked out onto the back porch holding a box of odds and ends. My curiosity peaked as he sat down and began to assemble the pieces.
"Umm, Grandad? What's that?"
I pointed to the box.
"This? I call it a catywampus."
"A catywhat?" That was new to me.
"Catywampus. It makes weird noises. We used to make them as kids"
"O ... K ... So what are you going to do with it?"
With a glint of mischief in his eyes, he smiled. "I'm going to scare me somebody."
"Well, Granddad, you coulda scared me, but now I know. You've lost the element of surprise."
"Oh no, it isn't for you," he stretched a rubber band over the small box, "No, I have someone in mind. Someone very deserving."
He rubbed his hands together with an evil laugh. "Can you keep a secret?"
Of course I can keep a secret. Does kudzu climb trees? I nodded eagerly and sat up in my rocking chair.
"I'm going to scare your Uncle Bill."
Uh, oh. Uncle Bill must be in some mighty big trouble. "Why?"
"Well, I can say this now that you are grown up, but he's messing around with another woman."
I was truly shocked.
"Don't you tell your aunt what I'm doing here. She won't like it."
He went back to stretching rubber bands.
"Granny won't like it either, Granddad."
I paused. "Can I help?"
"Naw. You just take it easy. It won't be until tonight anyway."
I knew that I just had to see this. "But, what are you going to do?"
"Well, you see, your Uncle Bill is mightily superstitious. You know how he is always claimin' that the ghost of Cooter McGhee is hauntin' the woods behind his house?"
I nodded. Uncle Bill was one shot short of a margarita. Everyone knew Cooter haunted the local jukejoint.
"Well, I'm gonna introduce him to ol' Cooter with this here catywampus. I'm gonna hide in the woods and if I'm lucky, Bill will think it's Cooter."
I shook my head. Granny was gonna send him to the old folks home when she found out. And of course I told. When she said she would take care of it, I promptly forgot about the whole mess.
Later that night, a noise woke me up. I peeked out and saw Granddad tiptoeing down the hall, holding the box. A minute later, a white ghost passed by in his footsteps - a ghost with blue bunny slippers shuffling under the white sheet? Oh Dear Lord.
"Granny? What on earth are you doing?" I whispered loudly.
The Granny ghost turned around. "Shhhh. I'm going to help your Granddaddy. Your Uncle Bill has shamed the family and deserves to be horsewhipped. Here. I have an extra sheet," she said, holding out a light yellow twin size.
Oh right, like I am going to dress up like a ghost, go trouncing out in the woods at midnight to scare my uncle. I paused. There ain't no way I was staying behind and letting them have all the fun.
"Yellow's a good color," I said, grabbing my new costume.
So off we went, walking through the woods to Uncle Bill's and Aunt Marlene's doublewide trailer. Granddad hid behind an ancient willow tree and began plucking the catywampus, making an eerie noise.
Almost immediately, Uncle Bill poked his head out the back door.
"Who's thar?" he asked nervously.
That was our cue. Granny and I stepped out from behind the bushes and began to glide around with our arms outstretched.
Uncle Bill screamed like a girl and slammed the door shut! Granny and I were laughing under our sheets so hard that we almost peed in our pants. Laughing while trying to be quiet isn't easy, you know.
Then Granny slipped in the mud and fell, all tangled up in her sheet. I could still hear Granddad's eerie music punctuated with quiet laughter. Then the door opened up again. Uncle Bill and a lady from the Piggly Wiggly stuck their heads out like prairie dogs out of a hole.
I snorted and started gliding again, but Granny was laughing so hard, she gave up and just lay there in the mud in her sheet. I kept on doing my ghostly boogie. Granddad was still plucking.
Then, I saw something that I can't explain. Right behind Uncle Bill's trailer was an apparition floating down. He must have known something was wrong because he slowly turned and saw a white ghost howling and waggling its arms frantically as it careened towards him.
I looked back at Granny then looked back at Uncle Bill, but he and the Piggly Wiggly woman were gone by this time!
Stunned, I just stood there and watched the thing come closer. Was that screaming I heard? It had to be Cooter McGhee! The tales were true! Our woods WERE haunted!
"Roger, stop that infernal strumming!" Granny yelled as she struggled out from under the sheet. The music stopped. "Ok, Marlene, you can come down now."
The ghost landed with a bump and an "Ooof!" on the back deck. It threw off its sheet and revealed itself. The ghost was Aunt Marlene!
"Just what in tarnation is going on here?" I asked, puzzled, as she hung from the wire.
"Heavenly justice, darlin'. Heavenly justice," she answered as she unhooked herself and fell to the deck with a grunt.
I just nodded, quite bemused. I guess every Southern family has its ghost in the closet. I just wish I'd have gone to the bathroom before that one came flying out.
Spooky Southern Recipes
Contributed by S. D. Youngren
I know from personal experience that you can get very silly drinking this. At least, you can get very silly if you drink it with certain of my relatives. 'Nuff said.
One ounce rum
Four ounces cranberry juice
Pour over ice in an eight-ounce highball glass. This will license you to make a "chilling" pun. Dark rum is usually favored. I am told some people add grenadine; you'll have to let your own tastes guide you here. There are also Bat Bite recipes which call for replacing some of the cranberry juice with orange juice. I haven't tried this, as I have doubts about the color. This variation should probably be called a "Fruit Bat Bite."
Boogers on a Stick
Contributed by Angela Gillaspie
This serves 5-6 of your best booger buddies.
8-ounce jar of process cheese spread
Green food coloring
25 to 30 pretzel sticks
Melt the process cheese spread in the microwave or on top of the stove, according to the directions on the jar. Using a long-handled spoon, carefully stir about 3 drops of green food coloring into the warm cheese, using just enough to turn the cheese to a delicate snot green.
To form boogers: Dip and twist the tip of each pretzel stick into the cheese, lift out, wait twenty seconds, then dip again. When the cheese lumps reach an appealingly boogerish size, set pretzels, booger side down, onto a sheet of waxed paper. Allow finished boogers on a stick to cool at room temperature for ten minutes or until cheese is firm. Gently pull boogers off waxed paper and arrange on a serving platter.
Horrifying Cheese Ball
Shared by: Gertrude Butterbean
Y'all need to make this a day ahead to allow for all the flavors to combine. Use pineapple packed in its own juice, not heavy syrup -- you don't want this to be too sweet.
2 (8-ounce) packages cream cheese, softened
1 (8 1/2 ounce) can crushed pineapple (in its own juice), drained
1 cup finely chopped pecans
1 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1/4 cup finely chopped green pepper
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon seasoned salt
Gradually stir in pineapple, 1 cup finely chopped pecans, green pepper, onion, and salt to cream cheese. Chill well. Form into a ball and roll in the remaining coarsely chopped pecans. Chill until ready to serve.
Poke Salet Dip
Shared by: Gertrude Butterbean
In a large mixing bowl, combine poke salet, sour cream, mayonnaise, cream cheese, pecans and green onions. Using a wooden spoon, mix thoroughly until all ingredients are well blended. Add seasoned salt, oregano, dill weed and lemon juice. Season to taste using salt and pepper. Cover bowl with a clear wrap and place in refrigerator for a minimum of 2 hours.
If you are feeling fancy, trim core end of cabbage to form a flat base. Cut a crosswise slice from the top, making it wide enough to remove about a fourth of the cabbage. Lift out enough inner leaves to form a shell or bowl about 1-inch thick. Spoon dip into cavity of cabbage and serve with an assortment of fresh vegetables or croutons.