Pacific Northwest Interlude: The Legendary Pumpkins of Washington State

We’re sitting beside Commencement Bay in lower Puget Sound, enjoying a brunch with friends.  This is not a “brunch” in the way that the word is thrown around so often these days.  We’re provided with Mimosa’s that just keep coming like the tide and enough oysters and shrimp to drive a Maine shell fisherman turn green with envy.  No, this is a real Washington State brunch.

On our way home we drive through the lovely countryside that follows the Puyallup River.  This would be the river that would turn into massive mud slides once Mt. Rainier erupts.  But no one on the road today is thinking about that.  We’re just driving and gazing in awe at the sublime majesty of the mountain itself.  Rainier is a shy and bashful mountain, hiding its beauty behind clouds much of the time…but not today.  No, not today.  It sits in the distance, begging to be climbed, hiked around and admired up close.  The only problem is that it’s a National Park…and we know about National Parks these days, don’t we.

We stop at a Pumpkin Farm.  Halloween is about two weeks away.  My grandson is having his first touching experience with those strange orange globes that fill the field.

I am very fond of this holiday.  I recall Trick or Treating as a child in my hometown of Owego, NY.  Years later, I took my own children to these same houses.  I love dressing up as something I’m not.

And I consider pumpkin carving nothing short of a work of pure art.  I carve pumpkins like a professional ghost storyteller spins yarns of ghouls and witches.  But my pumpkins are not silly ones with grins and oversized teeth.  No, my pumpkins are carved like they belong in burial grounds of places like Sleepy Hollow and Cemetery Hill.  They are spooky, scary and malevolent.

I looked over the boxes of the $1.33/lb. variety.  The blank faces stared back at me.  Take me.  Carve me.  Make me horrid, they would say to me.

I felt like Michelangelo.  I saw a lump of orange and the demon inside would form in my mine.  I was the artist whose job it was to release this spirit from within.

I selected one that said the right thing to me.  I made plans.  I drafted designs.  And then I looked across the patch and saw my grandson.  How could I carve something that would frighten this pure innocent soul?  I was stuck in a dilemma.  Be true to my dark side or make my grandson giggle?

I bought the chosen orb and then rode home trying to discover a laughable and cute demon.

They have to be out there, somewhere.  After all, isn’t that what “graveyard humor” is all about?


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