by Christine Smith
Halloween Pumpkins are very special to our family. Who knows how things start, especially on a farm (Insert 1). We have pictures when my two brothers were just babies of them sitting by a small pile of pumpkins by the road with a can and the honor system when we had too many to use. This was back in the early 60’s. In the 80’s we made the decision to have a “real” pumpkin stand and all the trappings to go with it.
A week before Halloween we start unpacking all of our acquired goodies to put on one of the areas finest free Halloween celebrations. It takes many volunteers. I have a couple of sayings, “I have never met a pumpkin I didn’t like!” and “Pumpkins are like children, all different, all special!” No matter if they’re bruised, broken stemmed, or have bad spots or flat sides – just carve and add a candle, turn out the lights and watch him (I usually think of pumpkins as “he’s”) turn beautiful and fulfilled! If you don’t have the same attitude we have you are not allowed to work at our stand. You must love pumpkins to be there.
By that week perfect pumpkins are pretty scarce. When we are picking for retail we are pretty selective. But, we assure the pumpkins we leave in the field that we will be back to get them for the very special night. No handle – just lay him on his side and put eyes and a mouth and leave the area for a nose. We never take out the top. Long before Martha Stewart made it trendy to take out the bottom or the back, we were doing it because that’s where they are usually rotten. We even have carvers who specialize in gutting spoiled pumpkins. They have pretty strong stomachs!
We have a faithful following who come out for three nights – first night to gut, next to carve, and last to set them out and light (Insert 2 and 3). We usually carve 300 to 400 pumpkins. My father invented the Big Dan Pumpkin Gutter. It consists of a drill with a special degutter on the end to make it easier to take out the insides, which is essential when you have hundreds to clean.
Our favorites are lumpy bumpy, odd shaped pumpkins. Make it green to boot and you have the best to carve. I go into the local school and show the children how to carve pumpkins. I’ve even got them looking for different shapes instead of the “perfect” pumpkins. When we pick in the field, we cut the longest stems possible. When a stem breaks in the field, we say its “the snap heard around the world.”
We have collected many ideas for Halloween night over the years. We may have a repeat performance the night after but we usually stay with the one night. It is free and we have hundreds of people attend. We give away popcorn and hot or cold drinks, depending on the weather. If someone wants to bring out something, we ask them to bring out a can of food for the local food bank. It takes two days to set up all the displays and then seven to eight people two hours to light all the candles.
For several years I’ve wanted to make a garland of small midsize pumpkins. All season we saved them. This was the year that it finally was a reality (see Insert 4). It was a hit!
I could go on about all that we do but the bottom line is that pumpkins are very special to this family. People say they look at pumpkins in a different light after we get through with them. Pumpkins are like black lab puppies&emdash;you just gotta love them!
Christine Smith lives in Winamac, Indiana.