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Musings About Family, Travel And Gardening With Allen Martinson.


Pumpkin Head

This is the last weekend before Halloween. The day after that it will be November, it’s time to start thinking thanksgiving, Christmas tree shopping and putting on your best family visits face. We had a rough start to this fall with no rain and above average temperatures in October. Nevertheless the show must go on, the fall planting needs to happen before the temps drop and the rains begin to fall. If we can get our fall plants to root in while the soil still is holding some warmth the pansies and snap dragons will perform so much better throughout the winter months and on into spring.

Getting that off of your long list of things that have to happen between now and December 26th not only makes you feel better for getting ahead of things but makes your house all the more welcoming and warm for the upcoming season visitors. You will most likely have lots of people looking at your front yard for Halloween so you might as well get it done this weekend. When I think of Halloween I think of the fun times we used to have when I was a kid and it makes me think of the time when my kids were young enough to enjoy trick or treating. Before my family moved out to Madison in the 70’s we lived in Jackson close to my parents garden center, Green Oak Nursery.

Green Oak is one of the first nurseries in town along with Calloways and amazingly, in this weird retail world we live in now with Amazon and the big box stores changing the retail world forever, we are still standing. My sister and her husband ran and owned Green Oak until recently when they moved over to let their son and his wife own the place for a while. They are doing a great job with the place and it still has the first class service that my parents started it out to be. All 4 of us Martinsons grew up on Reddoch Drive in Jackson. We had fun roaming around the neighborhoods with gangs of other kids and the parents and neighbors seemed to roam around from house to house visiting and partying together like it was done in the old school days. It was a fun time, it seems like the worries of the world were less, maybe I was just to young to worry about much except keeping up with the older kids and not getting hit by a car. One year my worries grew to another level. Most of you will remember that we used to make our own Halloween costumes. I didn’t even know a kid that got lucky enough to have a store bought costume. This was the time of year that a lot of our moms sheets got used and cut and shredded, we would all be in trouble on the 32nd of October.

The tradition at our house was to get the house ready for our annual spook house, yep, we were the family that would lead trick or treaters through our house feeling the bowl full of spaghetti for guts, bowl full of meatballs for eyeballs and so on. It would change a little from year to year but not much. Mostly what changed about it was which kids had gotten old enough to be a part of the wacky, strobe light, madness to lead the visitors through, take care of the cryers and send them on their way with spaghetti and meatball hands back to their moms who were busy partying in the adult side of this thing. Another thing that happened every year was that my mom would leave to go somewhere (I never figured out where) on the eve of Halloween. Miraculously her evil twin sister would show up and take over the spook house. I never liked her twin sister much, she was just a bit off yet looked a lot like my mother only weirder.

On this particular Halloween I had eaten too much candy during school at Saint Richard’s like we do in the 3rd grade. I knew as soon as I got home from school that that crazy witch would be at the house and my mother would not be there. I also knew that I had to get a costume together and quick! I had the best idea ever for my costume, I thought about it all day while munching on some more candy. I would sneak into the sheet closet and get yet one more of my moms sheets, cut a hole in it big enough for my head to fit through it and wear that as the bottom half of my costume, easy enough. The great idea I had was to take one of those plastic pumpkins that we used as trick or treat buckets that we used to carry around our bounty in. I found a serrated knife in the kitchen and cut a big X in the bottom of the pumpkin bucket. In my not yet developed mind I would push my head through the X and my head would wind up in the plastic pumpkin. What could possibly go wrong? I thought it was the smartest thing I could have ever thought of and I was having thoughts of grandeur about how the neighborhood kids were going to be cheering and secretly jealous of my fantastic idea. The part I didn’t consider was that the giant X that I cut formed 4 triangles that were very sharp. I remember that the whole time I was rummaging around the house for all the parts to this I felt the need to hurry, if I got too far behind the older kids I would never find them and worst of all there wouldn’t be any candy left. Now I was starting to sweat. It was a dog eat dog world on Halloween. As I pushed my head in through the X, the triangles would allow my head to go up then the sharp points would poke right into my neck.

By the time I realized my folly the points had completely sunk in. It was then that I realized that the more I tried to push the pumpkin off my head the deeper the points dug in. I was in a pickle, I had my sheet on already and now I was running around pretty much blinded by the orange plastic pumpkin (which I had neglected to make eye holes for) crying and hoping that someone besides that crazy witch hanging around our house would help me out of this terrible situation. Trying to avoid the witch I ran outside into the street after crashing into walls and doors panicked, running, hollering for someone to help! The neighborhood kids were all gathering outside the spook house when out runs this screaming, sheet wearing pumpkin head crying and by now madder that a yellow jacket. They got the pumpkin off my head by letting the smart one in the bunch use the same serrated knife that I had used to fashion this thing with to cut the thing off my head before I blew up! I was mad, ego bruised and only had half a costume on and it was showtime. That magical moment had arrived when, even though unspoken, all the kids know when it’s time to start the nights ruckus. No more time to fuss over costumes, the little brothers and sisters of the bigger kids have been pawned off to someone else, the parents would have to trust that we’d survive, showtime!

Sometimes I don’t know how we never got seriously injured during those days, lucky I guess. I ran back in the house and found an old, floppy hat and a corncob pipe. That would be my costume for that year, it made no sense, I guess I was the ghost of an old miner or better yet a country bumpkin wearing his moms sheets. Didn’t matter, the spook house was strobing, the witch was being weird, the littlest kids were being led out while crying and the bigger kids came out with the nasty hands, perfect Halloween. We had a good crowd going and the night was fun enough that I didn’t notice the indentations on my neck too much until the next day. I worried more about that witch going back to wherever she came and my mom coming home to find at least one of the sheets with a head sized hole cut in it, or most likely mysteriously missing.

Those were fun times just like these are fun times, the neighborhoods around here look great. I’m sure and I hope that it is as fun today as it was then, probably with a new set of rules but I’d bet they are very similar. I love the new stuff I’m seeing in the streets in the Northside, even looking good during the daytime hours are these 9 or 10 feet tall monsters walking across peoples lawns are striking. They probably glow in the dark for the nighttime show. Its great to see some of the fun traditions not completely going away, fun is fun, thankfully that’ll never change. I’m hoping you will have a fun Holliday season, 2 months of it. I am also hoping you find a great time that you can enjoy planting some winter annuals before too long.

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