The Great Pumpkin Thief

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The Great Pumpkin Theif

It’s almost that time once again to get out the kitchen knife and Grandma’s old dishpan and start carving away at a helpless pumpkin to make it look like something out of an orthodontist’s nightmare. With Halloween approaching, I’m reminded of my youthful days, when jack-o’-lanterns became valuable on that frightful night.

In our little rural community, we all grew pumpkins between the rows of corn, either in the field or in the garden. We grew them to feed our hogs, but some of the choice ones would become fall decorations for the front porch – and a target for jack-o’-lantern thieves as well. Jack-o’-lantern thievery was almost a major sport in my neck of the woods on Halloween night, with trying to catch who stole your pumpkin running a close second.

There were those who sat up with their pumpkins all night, as at a wake with a deceased friend, and they were the ones targeted on the “Big Halloween Night Pumpkin Pilfer.” One year, a group of my friends planned for weeks to steal Miss Baskin’s pumpkin. She was an English teacher from the big city high school and never let anyone steal her pumpkin. It was said she guarded it with a shotgun, and no one was brave enough to steal her holiday gourd. That was, until Ronnie took the challenge.

On Halloween night, he and his friend Bubba developed a plan. Bubba would cause a distraction at the house next door, causing Miss Baskin to look away and giving Ronnie the chance to snatch her pumpkin. He would dress all in black and crawl like a snake to the porch. Meanwhile, his friend would grab Mr. Hayes’ pumpkin off the porch next door. Mr. Hayes always let you get his pumpkin, but he always carried on about it, making a lot of noise, which Ronnie hoped would be enough to allow him to get the Baskin gourd and hit the trail.

Halloween arrived, and around 10 p.m. on a spooky moonlit night the two jack-o’-lantern thieves approached their targets. Bubba headed out to Mr. Hayes’ and Ronnie crawled like a serpent to the edge of Miss Baskin’s porch. Ronnie could see her sitting in her straight-back school chair in the shadows of the corner of the porch with something long in her hands that resembled a weapon of some kind. The two boys had made their plan that when Mr. Hayes started making his racket, Ronnie would make his move.

Just as the moon went behind a cloud, Ronnie heard all kinds of hollering going on over at the Hayes’ house and he saw Miss Baskin get up out of her chair and move to get a better look. Ronnie made his move as well, and grabbed the pumpkin, preparing to make his escape. However, as he turned to run, Miss Baskin stuck a broom handle in his ribs, and at the same time Mr. Hayes threw a large firecracker over where Bubba was running with his pumpkin.

Hearing the firecracker explode, Ronnie assumed Miss Baskin’s broom was a gun and his minutes were numbered, and he fell flat on the ground. For the next few minutes, he admitted to a lot of things right there in front of everyone, including Bubba, which wasn’t a good thing, and asked for a lot of forgiveness until he realized he was not injured but had only been goosed by a schoolteacher’s broom in the ribs.

The night Ronnie got shot by a broom is still a favorite Halloween story in my neck of the woods, but pumpkin thievery is now a thing of the past. Pumpkins have gone plastic, kids don’t care, and English teachers no longer guard pumpkins from teenage boys. What have the times gotten to?

1 Comment

  1. Rhonda

    September 5, 2012 at 9:18 am

    TO: PETTUS READ, EDITOR

    I just read “The Great Pumpkin Thief” again this morning as I wanted to start my day with a good laugh which would, hopefully, result in a good attitude about life in general. What a great story by a great story-teller!!! I belly-laugh every time I read it and it calls to mind when the “sport in my neck of the woods” was knocking on a certain neighbor’s door and then fleeing without detection. No dog poop in a flaming paper bag or anything like that, just knock and run and watch from a short distance and then do it again just as the neighbor (aka MY DAD) has just gotten all comfy in his favorite chair. We kids anxiously awaited that tap-tap-tap on our door shortly after dark and then hearing our Dad grumble and gripe and act all annoyed. You see, my Dad knew who the prankster was but didn’t know when he would strike or where he went afterwards; until that one fateful night when my Dad was on his game and the prankster didn’t have time to get to his usual hiding place. My Dad had surmised that the culprit couldn’t escape that quickly on foot so he had to have wheels. The problem was that the culprit only had 2-wheels (a 24″ bike) and my Dad was prepared that night with his 4-wheeled, bright-beamed headlight bearing search vehicle (the family car). That night ended the sport and I don’t recall a new one ever taking its place. You are right — gone are the times of harmless pranks!!

    I hope my story has made you laugh as yours did me.

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