At the 2012 Topsfield Fair, a world record smashing giant pumpkin, the first to exceed one ton (2,009 lbs) is encased in a glass mausoleum as the receiving line wraps around the building with thousands trying to catch photos of kids and orange mammoth together – no easy task considering the disparate heights of the gourd and the kids, the crushing crowds, and the reflections on the protective glass. The accompanying Giant Pumpkin “How To” kit consists of a couple of seeds in a plastic baggy and the promise of immortality through the morbid obesity of a fruit that could quite literally contain a life-sized, but probably slimy, Cinderella. The cost of immortality – a seemingly reasonable five dollars. (Salem News story on the pumpkin challenge: http://www.salemnews.com/local/x964642862/SQUASHING-RECORDS )
The night before I went to the Topsfield Fair, insomnia led me on a near futile search for a TV show worthy of my company. I wanted something slow-moving and senseless enough to lull me to sleep, but interesting enough that if I couldn’t sleep I would at least be entertained. Enter PBS’ “Lords of the Gourd”, an hour-long documentary about the pursuit of excellence through giant pumpkin growing that proved far too fascinating to induce sleep. (http://video.pbs.org/video/2140299292/ also available on Netflix https://movies.netflix.com/WiMovie/Lords_of_the_Gourd_The_Pursuit_of_Excellence/70077102?locale=en-US )
“Lords of the Gourd” is not nearly as much about horticultural secrets as it is about people as obsessed by the Great Pumpkin as Linus in “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. The Charlie Brown show is a bitter-sweet story of hope and disappointment, and the PBS program depicting subjects seeking the Holy Grail of pumpkindom and working like crazy to nurture a mega giant pumpkin out of their little patches of earth is filled with the same essence.
Giant Rabbit Hole Alert – According to Wikipedia. the original “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” show, based on the characters of Charles M. Schulz, has been edited a number of times to allow for more commercials and to soften the blow of the misery of a night that produces pounds of candy for everyone but Linus and Charlie Brown. Charlie as you might recall from the 40-year-old original, collected more and more rocks as he traveled from house to unsympathetic house. Probably at the same time teachers were advised to stop writing grades in red pencil on papers because it caused too much angst among students, the misery was cut back and the show edited so the audience witnessed just one rock proffering house. They also cut the scene where mean girl, Lucy, yanked the football away after promising to let Charlie really play this time. While I know kids can be miserably torturous creatures, I do not think the plot was ever developed enough to make me understand why parents would allow one kid to get rocks. It’s time Charlie’s family pulled up their roots and moved elsewhere, if you ask me. But as far as the football prank goes, Charlie needs to learn the hard lesson that not everyone deserves to be your friend, and kick Lucy to the curb. She’s a drain on his positive energy and hope… as promised I digressed.
Back to “Lords of the Gourd”. Lessons are many in this movie.
1. Unsurprisingly, men make up more than 75% of the growers obsessed with making something the biggest. (Not saying nothing!)
2. The mighty can be brought down by the mini (an unnoticed mouse weighing in at mere ounces collapsed both the core of a mega pumpkin and the hopes of its nurturer.)
3. Next time you complain about gaining 5lbs from one gustatory binge weekend, consider this – a single pumpkin can gain between 30-50lbs in a DAY! What kind of stretch pants would you need for that!?
4. Whether it’s in Charlie Brown world or the real world, some people rot! A jealous competitor or just a miserable person sprayed a toxin on someone’s patch killing all the contenders. (No one has been convicted or identified in relation to this crime.)
5. A potent relationship can develop between any person and the object of his/her nurturing. Who are we to question another person’s love? The emotions attached to the pumpkins are real with one person cradling his pumpkin and a childless couple referring to their pumpkins as off-spring.
Halloween is upon us and it’s time to reveal the terrifying story of Pumpkin and Kin. And this is where the pumpkin as child metaphor got a little sketchy for me. Cutting the cord (vine) is in effect killing the baby. The giant pumpkin at Topsfield Fair is losing weight without nurture or sustenance. And even without the visits of a mouse, it is preparing to collapse under its own weight over time. Its pumpkin family will live with memories of its day in the sun, and that bit of resilient hope – the possibility of cloning superior grandchildren through collected seeds and safe pumpkin sex.
Thankfully there is more to Halloween than pumpkins and if you need some lighter fare than murderous parents might provide this holiday season, take a peek at another of my blog posts “Top 10 Worst Excuses for Candy – Ever”: https://brain4rent.wordpress.com/2010/10/06/top-10-worst-excuses-for-candy-ever/ .
©2012 Alison Colby-Campbell