It’s heartwarming when people create family traditions for the holidays. I know how much I look forward to our family Christmas Eve gathering. Along with a delicious turkey meal, we watch the young ones open Christmas presents and, best of all, spend time with the extended family and have a wonderful time.

This story is also about a tradition. It has nothing to do with a nice, warm gathering of people, though. Nope, it’s about the annual dragging of an outhouse into the middle of the intersection of routes 9 and 139 in Unity — smack-dab in the middle of the town under the blinking traffic light.

It used to happen every Halloween.

I was told of this wonderful tradition by none other than my game warden friend, John Ford, the first year I transferred into the area from the Moosehead Lake region.

“Oh, it’s just some prank they play every year. We never seem to catch them, though, even though we usually learn much later from some camp owner of just where the outhouse came from,” John said.

Sure enough, each and every Halloween, sooner or later, mostly later, an outhouse would appear in the middle of the intersection. It was actually quite funny. I always wanted to see it being dragged down the road by a pickup or whatever was used. But I never did.

One year, I thought it was time to put in some extra effort and see if I could catch the pranksters. It had been a quiet Halloween evening and when I made it to Unity, the outhouse had not yet made its grand entrance. It was late, so I thought I could do some surveillance and catch the tricksters. I found a spot to hide in my cruiser and waited. And waited.

Did I tell you how I have no patience? I like to be moving.

Case in point: I thought one night I would repay John Boy and ride with him, as he used to almost live in my cruiser, but I had never ridden with him. The night came for me to ride with John Boy. I jumped in and we went to Burnham to check fields. Then we chose one in which to sit. I loved riding around and checking things, but once we got into position in the back of the field, we were there about six minutes when I asked, “What do we do now?”

John started up his truck and drove me home.

So there I was this Halloween night sitting in the cruiser waiting for an outhouse to be dragged down the road. I watched vehicles passing by so I could see who was out in the middle of the night and who might be possible suspects. I think I made it about 90 minutes when I couldn’t sit anymore. I had to do something.

Quietly, with my headlights off, I moved out of my position and made a quick pass through Unity College. It took all of five minutes and I headed back to my downtown hiding spot.

Apparently, the pranksters had more patience than I did and my hiding spot wasn’t as good as I thought it was. Because right there in the middle of the intersection was an outhouse. A nice one, too. I couldn’t believe it. Obviously, the outhouse bandits had been watching me and waiting for the opportunity to drag it there, then make a hasty retreat.

The problem with that particular area for law enforcement officers was, there were seven different routes of escape. I knew I had not passed any vehicles, so I chose another route. I couldn’t be that far behind the trick-or-treaters, as it had been done just minutes before.

No such luck. I chose the wrong avenue and never saw a thing. I turned to go back to the intersection to call a wrecker to have the outhouse removed. I was shaking my head that the Halloween pranksters had, once again, tricked me.

As I was approaching the outhouse, I saw a vehicle travel down Main Street and run smack into it, leaving nothing but a lot of kindling wood all over the road. It just exploded. The only whole thing left was the toilet seat in the middle of the road.

I stopped the motorist and approached him. Yep, he was drunk. And he was wondering what in the world he had just hit. I don’t think he believed me when I told him he ran over an outhouse.

Just another day in the life.

Mark Nickerson is a retired Maine State Police Trooper who lives in Unity The 28-year veteran and award-winning columnist may be reached at menick@uninet.net.