When I was a kid my parents and I lived in a 100-year-old wooden farmhouse out in the country. My grandparents lived next door in a new-ish bungalow, and owned most of the surrounding farmland. The reams of preserved fruits and vegetables my grandmother would put up every year might suggest a different story (going down to the cold storage to get a jar of whatever always felt a bit like shopping), but my grandfather was a true hobby farmer, content with smaller scale farming pursuits like tending trees, growing fruits and vegetables and reminding his granddaughter that it’s really gross to just yank the carrot out of the ground and eat it without washing it off first (I’d do it all the time, mostly just to get a rise out of him; I’d shake them off a bit, but I think I ate a lot of dirt as a kid!) It was quiet, contemplative, family-oriented work – just my grandfather tending the little fields of veggies, veggies that would cover our dinner plates later that evening. It’s what he chose to do in his retirement, and he did it well, in that quiet, humble way most farmers have about them.
Except when it came to pumpkin season. Because as soon as the pumpkins were ready, it was showtime. Every October my grandparents would set up a big stand at the road and would sell all manner of fall-type produce, from apples to Indian corn (flint corn, if you’d prefer) to pumpkins. Being older and living out in the country, my grandparents were justifiably somewhat skittish about the randoms that would periodically wander onto their property, usually in search of directions, but occasionally just to act weird (“C’mon, how often did that happen way out in the country?” you might be thinking. ALL THE TIME is the answer) but come pumpkin time, it was doors open for my grandparents. I relished the crowds and the hustle and bustle of the seasonal event, and I loved watching my grandparents out of their element, particularly my mild mannered grandfather, who for about two weeks every fall would morph into some sort of master pumpkin salesman/carnival barker. The little village I grew up in certainly had its fair share of roadside produce stands, but ours always seemed extra busy, and I like to think it was because my grandfather, in accessing a bit of his too-often-hidden inner showman, made it a fun, friendly place to visit. I know he certainly loved the experience – never have you seen a man swing a giant pile of pumpkins into the back of a pickup so jauntily.
I’m all grown up now and my grandfather has been gone for 20 years, but I still remember those pumpkin-slinging days like they happened last week. Very good times in what was a very good childhood, and one more piece of the not-such-a-puzzle puzzle that is my love of the fall. These pumpkin patch nails are in remembrance of those fantastic days. 🙂