Have you ever seen one up close?
These are the Granddaddies of Pumpkins.
And once you see one, you want one.
Can’t remember how it started. The details are fuzzy. Yet, somewhere, somehow, I saw one of these pumpkins, asked about it, and figured out it came from Vardaman, Mississippi.
Back then, I was dating my soon-to-be husband. He owned a construction company, had construction equipment, and was eager to please me.
I had to have a giant pumpkin. Nothing else would do.
After multiple “side-eyes”, and excuses/delays, we took off on a Thursday afternoon for Vardaman, which is well known as the “Sweet Potato Capital”. Great, I thought, I can pick up a bushel of sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving while we are there.
After a few hours in the “truck”, me with the map (pre-Internet), and husband-to-be grumbling, we finally found the Greatest Pumpkin Patch of them all.
HUGE Pumpkins, everywhere, as far as the eyes could see. It was the land of giant pumpkins…. all the way to the horizon. I was wide-eyed.
I was scampering across the field, trying to pick my favorite pumpkins……..plural……..cuz we had a truck, I wanted more than one………Duh.
Husband-to-be was back at the edge of the field talking to person-in-charge.
The deal was $20 for any pumpkin, most weighed 150-200lbs, but we had to move them. If the farmer + crew moved them, they were $50/each.
Thus, we had to move the pumpkins.
I hadn’t planned on that part.
Couldn’t we have an open truck bed to drive through the field and pick them up?
The farmer was okay with that part but said, “Just remember, if you break it, you buy it”, which meant we could not drop one.
But we could only fit 5 pumpkins into the entire long bed of the pickup truck. Gosh, I had hoped for more.
And picking them up……… was truly difficult.
For the remainder of our married lives, husband blamed me/the giant pumpkins for his sore back.
Thirty minutes into our journey home, I knew I had made a good purchase. People honked and waved at us. They tried to pull us over and buy our pumpkins. Ohhhs and Ahhhhhs and mad waving from kids in the back seat of passing cars. Our pumpkins were a big hit.
But that was nothing compared to the reaction when we arrived home.
Keep in mind, we were dating at the time. Husband to be, unknown to me, had a reputation as something of a Scrooge. He was short-tempered, far too intelligent, and impatient with people. Everyone in town knew “that” about him. Thus, to have the town ‘Scrooge’ make his way down Main Street with an overt display of Halloween decor raised a few eyebrows.
And it got better.
We didn’t make it home until after dark on Thursday and we needed help to unload them. “No problem”, said husband-to-be, “I’ll get the guys at the shop to help us.” BUT, they had gone home. Therefore, he had to go to “work”, on job sights, all day on Friday….. with Gigantic pumpkins in his truck. He had to run errands with giant pumpkins, multiple trips to the lumber company for workers who needed deliveries. He went to breakfast and lunch with town forefathers…… where everyone came outside with their coffee to evaluate and inspect the pumpkins. Gas station, beer store, grocery store, butcher for Friday night special cut Ribeyes………., by close of business on Friday………….. EVERYONE IN TOWN knew about those pumpkins.
Back at the house, I came home early from Ole Miss, a big accounting test. By Mid-Morning, the phone was ringing off the wall. People wanted to buy our pumpkins. To clients and some others in town, money was no object, $100, $250? “How much do you want for those pumpkins, Daughn. My little boy/wife/girls just HAVE TO HAVE one?”
I started making a list and could have sold about 70 pumpkins by the time Husband-to-be came home. I was dreaming of a vacation in Europe….. or more likely paying next semester’s tuition from my pumpkin profits. Visions of my own local commodity exchange…. and pumpkin futures were going through the cieling.
Husband-to-be hopped out of the truck with a broad smile. I could see him from the kitchen window. Gosh, I thought, he must have had a good day….. just wait until he hears how many pumpkins I’ve sold.
Yet, four steps into the door and his face, his whole body, was in pain. He clutched his back…….”Pumpkin damage”, he said. He hoped it wasn’t “permanent”. Throughout dinner, however, he could not help but tell me about all the fun he had with the pumpkins in the back of the truck………… and he ran out of time……….. so the guys were GONE on Friday afternoon before we could unload the pumpkins. I frowned.
We had these great pumpkins, but they were still in the truck. We could NOT unload them. It took everything we had to get them into the truck. I went on and decorated the rest of the yard/house……. leaving a space for the giant pumpkins.
Over the weekend, my son-to-be Mother-in-law saw the pumpkins and pitched a fit. She DEMANDED one pumpkin. All her friends would be jealous, which was the real reason she wanted one. Her trick-or-treaters would love it. I remained silent… in fact… many of her friends were those on my list willing to pay almost anything for a giant pumpkin. And then Grandma Della stopped by. Of course, if Mother-in-law was going to get one pumpkin, Della had to have one as well.
I was losing my stash.
By Saturday, husband informed me our best client wanted a pumpkin and would call me to arrange some kind of delivery. Husband assumed he was giving it away. No. I already had him on the list = $250.
By Sunday, something big was happening at the church. And we had to go that Sunday morning….. in the truck…. with the pumpkins……. And of course the church was having a big Halloween festival and members of the church insisted they had to have a giant pumpkin……… One giant pumpkin —- donated.
On Monday, the construction guys delivered the pumpkins. By Monday afternoon/night, I had one giant pumpkin left for our yard. At least I had one, and I was feeling pretty good about spreading the holiday spirit with others. I was out there with the other construction guys, and they were rolling the giant pumpkin into place…… when one of our electrical sub-contractors pulled up and wheeled into our driveway.
“Stop!”, he said. “Miss Daughn, I see you there. I’ll give you $500 for that pumpkin. It’s important to me.” Husband-to-be, nursing a beer, strolled up to the side of the truck and his rolled-down window. The man was one of our best subcontractors and a long-time friend. Husband said, “Now, Mr. X, just what in the world are you going to do with a $500 pumpkin?” From Mr. X. “You don’t understand, my kids have seen those pumpkins, and it’s all they talk about. If I came home with one, it would be the biggest surprise I could give them.”
Husband looked at me and I sighed. “Sold”, I said. Who am I to stand in the way of kids’ joy at Halloween?
Sooooo, I ended up with no giant pumpkins for Halloween. Yet, five neighborhoods in town had an enormous turnout of trick-or-treaters. We spread the joy and I shrugged.
And I completely forgot about the sweet potatoes until I got a call from a girlfriend from another church…… They were making pies and casseroles to sell for Thanksgiving. She was so excited she was about to come through the phone………. because she figured out she could buy sweet potatoes in Vardaman, Mississippi at wholesale prices. She was going to make the trip to Vardaman to buy several bushels and use the big church kitchen to make pies and casseroles in assembly-line fashion.
She wanted to know if I wanted to go with her….. to Vardaman. “It’ll be fun”, she said.
Yeah, I passed on that trip.
My search for the great pumpkin ended with what was really important – the people who enjoy Halloween. It’s really all about the kids.