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THE CITY REBORN FROM THE ASHES OF AMERICA'S MOST DISASTROUS FOREST FIRE
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From My Window

Issue Date: October 28, 2020

The Pumpkin Tribe

By Jane Thibodeau Martin,

Last week I made the weekly trip to Mom's house on a day of ugly fall weather. The trip east on Thursday was characterized by a threatening, yellow-brown gloom, solid from cloud base to ground. It reminded me of the eerie greenish yellow atmosphere that preceded tornado weather in Oklahoma. It was as dark at 10 a.m. as it usually is at 5:30 p.m. The return journey in late afternoon was a slog through heavy rain and winds. I kept watching my car's outdoor thermometer drop toward the freezing mark, wary that I'd face slick roadways. And nearly all the beautiful fall leaves are long gone.

The drive was still enjoyable, thanks to my fellow members of the Pumpkin Tribe.

That's what I call the like-minded souls who take an edible vegetable and use it as a smile-generator in various creative ways in, on and around their homes. The creativity, artistry and sense of humor of the tribe's members lift my spirits and make me laugh, and for that I appreciate them.

There are scarecrows with jack-o-lantern faces. Piles of pumpkins, with corn shocks, wagon wheels and orange lights arranged like oversized floral displays. Massive pumpkins, no doubt the pride of their grower, demonstrate pumpkin cultivation skills of the highest order. And tiny little Jack-Be-Nimble gourds, those adorable tiny pumpkin wanna-bes, gracing mailbox supports.

Mind you, we are still not to the crescendo of lit up and carved pumpkins at nighttime. While I enjoy that, it doesn't last long. But the Pumpkin Tribe's efforts grace the day-lit roadsides for weeks.

I saw several noteworthy efforts in Peshtigo - I took a photo of one on County B as you exit Peshtigo heading south featuring a skeleton dinosaur eating a "human" arm. There's a big house with an elaborate display on 41 on the east side of the river that I'd love to see at night. But many of the ones I enjoyed were out along the rural roads I zig-zag between Peshtigo and my home. Houses set well back from the roadway generously erect displays closer to the road for the enjoyment of passers-by. They didn't put these up for their own personal enjoyment. No, these were generous gestures to their fellow Pumpkin Tribe members who travel the road.

My Mom is a member of the Pumpkin Tribe too. However, things have not gone well at her house this year. I brought her a beautiful, huge pumpkin for her front yard. Two weeks ago, she pointed out a hole, neatly drilled as if with a tool, through the side of the pumpkin. And as I watched, a grey squirrel arrived, looked around, and entered the pumpkin through the convenient hole. A few seconds later it emerged with a mouth stuffed with pumpkin seeds. The "little devil!" (Actual terminology censored for the paper.)

The squirrels have tunneled into the guts of the pumpkin and by my most recent visit it was nearly eviscerated. The pumpkin on her front steps was chewed in many spots, but if you squinted at it turned the right way, it almost looked like it had eyes, a nose and a very crooked mouth gnawed into it, albeit like it was carved by a toddler. Even the smallest pumpkin high on her back deck had a centered, squirrel-sized hole in it, looking for all the world like a birdhouse.

None of us can remember the squirrels launching an attack on the family pumpkins before. It was oddly comical watching the squirrels pop in and out of the big pumpkin, like we humans getting takeout at a restaurant due to Covid.

My favorite nighttime sight at Christmas is the simplicity of one lit-up outdoor Christmas tree in solitary splendor.

My favorite Pumpkin Tribe display, similar in its simplicity to that tree, was off highway 41 between Oconto and Little Suamico. In a heavily wooded swampy area, an unimproved "trail" driveway led to a small clearing where a humble little camping trailer was parked, and next to it, a "well-traveled road warrior" pickup truck. It looked like someone's hunting headquarters. But at the junction of the "driveway" and the highway someone had positioned one big, perfect pumpkin. Nothing fancy. Just a non-utilitarian item at a utilitarian looking encampment, put there because it makes people like me feel like we do when we receive a friendly wave from a stranger. It was clearly a signal to those of us who are members of the Pumpkin Tribe. Thank you for making me smile on my journey.

I wish all of you, but especially Pumpkin Tribe members, a safe, healthy Halloween and All Soul's Day.

You can reach me for commentary, alternative viewpoints or ideas at this e-mail address: JanieTMartin@gmail.com.


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