Eugene Paquette has an appetite for destruction when he begins his shifts at the Double M Rodeo and Western Store.
Once dressed for work — with deep red theater blood slathered into his beard and over his throat — Paquette becomes “Pedey,” the mad proprietor of a barbecue stand inside Double M’s celebrated Haunted Hayrides attraction. For the past 21 years, people have been climbing aboard flatbed trailers for rides through gruesome, grim and sort of good-natured Halloween scenes on the Double M grounds.
Paquette, 28, who lives in New Scotland, has been part of the show off Route 67 for the past six years. For his first three seasons in the woods, he portrayed an executioner at his electric chair. Since 2009, he’s been wearing a red-stained apron, red-and-white flannel shirt and blue jeans, and looking for people to braise as they roll through the Western-themed “Terror Town” section of the hayride.
Ready to feast
On a recent Sunday night, with misty rain falling, Paquette got into character. At 6:30, he started a fire inside a large barbecue smoker that “Pedey” uses as his most convincing prop. “I’m looking to scare you, take you off the wagon and put you in my cooker,” said the jolly Paquette, who also carries a rifle and twin six-guns as he makes his culinary demands. “If they’re not drunk or smart-ass, I can generally scare them pretty good.”
Paquette, who works as a subcontractor during the day and belongs to the New Salem Volunteer Fire Department, has a bunch of other cowboys-turned-ghouls with him in Terror Town.
“Hey Tyler, you want to set up the speaker for me?” Paquette asked Tyler Schroeder, 19, of Burnt Hills, one of his scare-mates. “Make sure the connections are plugged in. The other night they weren’t connected and we were getting crappy sound.”
The cowboys need the speaker because “Pedey’s Barbecue” — like other respectable outdoor restaurants for ribs and roasts — plays music from a laptop computer stored in the shed behind the cooker. Paquette assembled the program, which includes country boy favorites “Chicken and Biscuits” by Colt Ford, “Smoke a Little Smoke” by Eric Church and “Ghost Riders in the Sky” by Blues Brothers 2000.
“We try not to target little kids,” Paquette said, as he finished his makeup. “But if they look like they’re about 10 years old, they’re fair game.”
At 6:40 p.m., Paquette checked his fire. The other ghouls stood in the dark near the smoker. None seemed concerned about dragging hapless teenagers off the hayride and chucking them into the flames. “Hear anything about the first wagon?” one asked. “No,” came the answer.
Ten minutes later, the cowboys received word. The first wagon, packed with between 30 and 40 people who had paid $21 for the hayride experience, was on its way. The actors took their places; Paquette stood in front of his smoker, and looked into the flames.
The tractor pulling the trailer rounded a curve on the grounds and approached Terror Town. Schroeder was up first — he burst from one of the prop buildings and yelled, “Whaddya doing in our town!?!”
Nobody on the trailer answered. The tractor approached the star of the show, who quickly turned away from his fire.
“Welcome to Pedey’s Barbecue,” Paquette said, in a loud, clear voice, rifle at the ready. “Y’all ain’t here for dinner, y’all just might BE dinner!
“Now,” he added, pulling a six-gun and walking close to the wagon, “which one of y’all wants to be my SACRIFICE?”
There were no answers. Paquette returned to his fire after the 25-second performance and said there were no real scares, either — no final destination for anyone.
Light rain was still falling at 7, but the tractors and people kept coming. At 7:05, the fourth wagon rolled away from the barbecue stand and Paquette returned to his fire. It was a rough night for ghouls.
“Can’t scare nobody!” he said.
The next flatbed rolled through at 7:08, and had some live ones aboard. “Now,” Paquette said, “which one of y’all wants to be my SACRIFICE?” A young woman giggled, and offered “Pedey” her friend. “She’ll be delicious,” the woman said.
Paquette stayed in character. “Y’all think this is a GAME?” he yelled, insulted and indignant.
There were still no vittles. Paquette said he and the cowboys — who can work some busy fall nights in September and October until 11 p.m. — occasionally use the smoker. “We’ve cooked out hot dogs with skewers this year,” he said. “Last year, we cooked venison and elk.”
There are generally about 50 people haunting the woods at Double M, which runs hayrides tonight and Sunday on the always-busy Halloween weekend. But, like other businesses, manpower shortages can mean fewer people on the job. Richard White, who was working on the ground, joined the Terror Town cast. He moved to the buildings at the entrance to the set; Schroeder moved to the saloon “building” across the path from the smoker and stood behind swinging doors.
At 7:15, White gave the angry welcome. The tractor pulled up to the saloon, Schroeder’s cue to barge out the doors and yell, “Get out of our town!” Then Paquette gave his well-rehearsed oratory.
“What’s your special tonight, Pedey?” asked a woman on the wagon, in obvious good spirits.
Paquette returned to his fire, happy with the performance. “I had one girl on there who wouldn’t even look at me,” he said.
Rough on the throat
By 7:25, 10 tractors and flatbeds had rolled through Pedey’s Barbecue. White approached the fire after his bit. “Got a peppermint on you?” he asked Paquette. “I haven’t screamed like this in a while.”
Paquette gave his friend a mint. But by 7:30, on a Sunday night, a school night and a rainy night, the barbecue would soon shut down. Headquarters said there was just another wagon or two coming. Paquette was still ready to cook.
“Now,” he said, as the last candidates for supper rolled by, “which one of y’all wants to be my sacrifice? Which ONE is it gonna be!”
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