My pumpkin patch is gone. It has been tradition for the past 40 years that we all gather the week before Halloween, on a day close to my daughter’s birthday, and have a celebration.
When my Dad had the farm, it was a time to trim and prune and gather deadfalls and create a large bonfire that would burn all afternoon and into the evening.
Relatives from the city would come out and stock up on vegetables from the garden and leave with a perfect jack o ’lantern. Dad grew lots of pumpkins and gently turned them as they progressed so they wouldn’t develop a flat spot.
We would make sure they had lots of water over the summer and the special treatment paid off come October. There was always one that flaunted early that it was to be the prize of the patch, and over the summer we would trim off extra shoots or vines so it got all the nutrients.
But we knew that we wouldn’t get to have that big one for our Halloween doorstep. The city kids or the grandkids got to take that prize home. Dad always said “If you’re going to give something to somebody, always give the best you’ve got.” I have to admit that it was a few years before I realized he just wasn’t talking about pumpkins.
Once the fire settled down, we’d break off some late corn cobs and dig up some potatoes and toss them into the bottom of the fire and it wasn’t long until we had plenty of roasted vegetables to go along with the hot dogs and s’mores.
Birthday cake, pumpkin pie and ice cream finished off the day and when the relatives had waved goodbye it was nice to sit with a mug of coffee, enjoy quiet conversation and watch the glow of the embers guide us into the evening.
But after the farm was sold, the only one that had a big backyard was me, so the annual event came to my place. I didn’t have the plot or the patience for growing prize pumpkins, so every year I would go to a local pumpkin patch, buy five or six so the kids could choose their own.
This year, I took the old truck out for a drive and headed for the farm.
As I came to the corner, I noticed the farmer didn’t have his big plywood ‘U-Pick’ smiling pumpkin sign nailed to the fence. As I turned the corner it seemed I could hear that ominous scary movie music playing and I had a sense of foreboding.
I came to the end of the road and there it was, gone. No farmhouse, no barns, and certainly no five acres of bright orange pumpkins. There were curbs and paved streets. There was heavy equipment and piles of gravel. There was progress instead of pumpkins.
After an extended drive I found a new farm, surrounded by trees and fields and horses — for now. But who knew that pumpkins will soon be added to the endangered species list.
It won’t be long until clandestine farmers will be growing pumpkins hidden amongst the corn or I have to meet some guy in a dark parking lot and give him an envelope of cash and smuggle my treasures home.
When you’re making your Jack O’ Lantern, hoard those valuable pumpkin seeds.
At least that’s what McGregor says.