Long-time readers of this column have read ad nauseam about my inability to grow a pumpkin to maturity.
For a while it was an obsession.
I blame it on two things. One, reading too many fairy tales as a child; stories such as Cinderella being whisked about in that horse-drawn pumpkin and, on a more disturbing note, Peter, Peter, Pumpkin Eater keeping his wayward wife in a pumpkin shell very well. Which is pretty much kidnapping, now that I think about it. For sure it’s holding someone against their will. No wonder Peter Pumpkin Eater’s wife wanted to escape. What kind of a man stores his wife in a pumpkin shell?
As a child I thought they looked happy. Mrs. Peter Pumpkin Eater was leaning on the window ledge of her beautiful pumpkin prison looking adoringly up at Peter, a happy smile on her face. What a dysfunctional tale that was. Why would she be all dopey and smiling like that? Dopey! Duh. She was probably drugged as well as held hostage!
But I digress. When I decided to grow a giant pumpkin I found the idea romantic. Two, my sons, who were very tiny at the time, saw that picture on a seed catalogue of a little boy sitting high on top of a giant pumpkin and thought it would be neat to have a big pumpkin like that for themselves.
I took it a step further and suggested we build a playhouse out of it. The idea of them playing inside of a giant pumpkin seemed quaint at the time.
I envisioned little lattice windows and one of those round top doors. Kind of like the one Mrs. Pumpkin Eater was held in. Right now I’m kind of sorry I brought up that whole Peter debacle.
Anyway, it was all for naught.
Come fall the boys made do with what I had managed to grow. We carved out a window and a door and they fetched their toy action figures, the Lego ones, and set them inside the pumpkin. Only three could fit at once.
“I just don’t know what happened,” I explained to my brave sons. “Next year. Next year you’ll fit inside of it, just wait and see.”
But by the next year they had lost interest in pumpkin playhouses. They thought it was dangerously close to having tea parties or playing house.
They still thought it might be fun to climb one, like the little boy from the seed catalogue, but they had a hay stack that served just as well.
And so it was left to me to pitch pumpkin tents to protect my pumpkins from the frost. it was me who attempted to feed the gourds intravenously, and it was me who crept out to the patch at pollinating time, paint brush in hand, to carefully make sure that nothing was left to chance. Still, for all my efforts, the biggest pumpkin I ever managed to grow wasn’t even big enough to hold the neighbour’s cat.
Had I known about punkin’ chunkin’ or more to the point, had my boys or my husband known abut punkin’ chunkin’, it might have been different. The patch would have received so much constant love and care that we would have had pumpkins bursting their seams everywhere you looked.
Which is what punkin’ chunkin’ is all about. You see, Punkin’ Chunkin’ is the annual World Championship pumpkin tossing contest held the first weekend after Halloween in Millsboro, Delaware. Competing teams build and implement a host of pumpkin-launching devices, including pneumatic air cannons, catapults, trebuchets and a variety of centrifugal machines. The goal is to see how far you can toss your pumpkin before it hits the Earth and smashes in a wild explosion of shell and seeds.
Think of the fun my boys would have had, building cannons and catapults and launching produce through the autumn air. The blue skies would have turned orange with flying pumpkins. Ah, I can picture them now, using the house, my car and each other for targets … . You know what? Maybe it’s just as well things turned out the way they did.
Shannon McKinnon will be away until the week of Oct. 10. In the meantime we hope you enjoy these previously published columns.