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Volume 15, Issue 44 ~ November 1 - November 7, 2007

Trick or Treat

How the Bay Gardener rescued Gramp and Grumpy’s Halloween

Boo Hoo!

Tradition has it that Halloween is a time for boo! as in ghost talk, not boo-hoos as in crying — unless the tears come from one frightened by a costume on the scariest night of the year.

Then it would be considered a triumph by the ghost, goblin, pirate, ogre, gorilla, Godzilla, vampire or whatever that stirred up the terror. All Saints’ Eve is a night of the Four Fs: fun, frolic, fantasies and fear. The good become bad; the bad become worse.

For kids, it’s a pagan festival; tricks or treats is not always spoken in jest. One is advised to have a bucket of candy, fruit or other goodies just inside the door. Turn out the lights and pull the shades, and you not only risk tricks but also miss out on the spirit of treating, helping to fill the bags held open by Snow Whites and Frankensteins.

Merriment is in the crisp evening air; neighbors, even strangers, help fill sacks with sweets as full as St. Nick’s pack two months later. The parents of the youngest are phantom sentinels in the shadows; those whose kids are teenagers stay at home to help fill the bags of other people’s kids, hoping the next ring of the doorbell doesn’t bring a real costumed cop holding their child by the scruff of the neck. Remember those days?

As with Christmas and stockings, once home there’s the dumping of the bags on the kitchen table to inventory the booty, and that not infrequently under the scrutiny of parents either eying a possible bedtime snack for themselves or figuring how in the heck they can make the more sugary candies disappear. Not down the throats of their kids.

Without Christmas, Easter, St. Valentine’s Day and Halloween, dentists would be moonlighting at bars as karaoke masters or frying hamburgers at Wendy’s. An apple a day keeps the doctor away; 35 or more miniature Snickers or Almond Joys invites the dentist with his drill and a bill that would costume every kid in the block.

What’s Halloween without a Jack-o-lantern?

There is a preamble to getting holiday loot. On this holiday, it’s the turning of a pumpkin into not a stagecoach but a Jack-o-lantern. The biggest and brightest snaggle-toothed pumpkin in the neighborhood is akin to an electric train, computer game or the latest doll in the stocking. Halloween without a Jack-o-lantern is like Christmas without a tree; Easter sans bunny.

It was the Jack-o-lantern — actually the lack of one — that prompted a more somber pre-Halloween spirit hereabouts as Black Cat night approached. Granddaughter Grumpy (a.k.a Mackenzie Noelle Boughey), going on six, and I had planned on using a pumpkin from the seeds of last year’s Jack-o-lantern as this year’s holiday centerpiece. We’d grow our own, and enjoy pumpkin pies, muffins, bread, pancakes, soup and pumpkin butter as byproducts. But a combination of the torrid and dry summer and my hospitalization at critical times did in our plans.

Our closely watched three backyard hills of pumpkins blossomed several times, but nary the makings of one jack-o-lantern resulted. Grumps was deflated. After all, we’d bragged that this year we were farmers; we’d go to market to sell, not to buy. Do or die — and our barren pumpkins chose the latter.

Bay Gardener to the Rescue

After reading of our plight a couple of weeks ago [Crop Failure at the Grandpop-Grumpy Pumpkin Farm: Vol. xv, No. 42: Oct. 18], the Grandiose Gardener with the white hat and shining horse named Silver galloped to our rescue. Not from the badlands of Pecos, but the croplands of Deale, this cowpoke was bug, beetle and borer gunslinger Doc Frank (Holiday) Gouin, this newspaper’s Bay Gardner columnist.

The brand of Frank’s el rancho is a peach atop a Christmas tree, for he raises and harvests the fruit from 150 peach trees, and his evergreen marketing involves 3,500 yule trees. He grew only one hill of pumpkins, but from that he wanted to donate one of the ’07 crop to the defunct Grumpy/Gramps Pumpkin Co. And from his farmer friend on the lower Eastern Shore, there was a bigger pumpkin.

Then came the Pony Express-type relay. Our hero carried the pumpkins to editor Sandra Martin at Bay Weekly’s Deale office; from there general manger Alex Knoll carted them to the paper’s Annapolis office, from which Grumpy’s mom Heather delivered them to the Burton ranch in Riviera Beach, where I’m housebound for a few weeks to nurse ailing toes.

Grumps, of course, chose the bigger of the two, and by the time it takes a witch to get from here to there with a jet broom, she was all smiles beside her pumpkin transformed into a scowling goblin. Halloween was saved.

The other pumpkin?

It was the one from Frank’s garden, not just an ordinary Halloween one, but a coveted sugar pumpkin, small but the most tasty of all for pies and anything else for the table. Methinks I’ll ride over to Grumpy’s house to see her lighted goblin, then come back home and start peeling mine. It’s destined not to a window or porch but an oven — within a round crust.

Holidays for kids is what they reap; for adults it’s what they eat. Thanks to the Bay Gardener, both Grumps and I are enjoying a happy Halloween. Enough said.

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