Friday, August 28, 2009
This year, we decided we would have a charming little pumpkin patch to entertain our boys and provide hours of delight, not to mention Halloween manna like the gods write about.
Let me just explain that we may as well have lain prone in the back forty and let the birds peck at our eyes. Such torment would have been preferable to watching the feathered blight DESTROY ALL OF OUR DREAMS.
It started when our six maturing pumpkin plants begin to burst forth in a fecund froth of blooms. We were excited! We watched them, waiting for the elusive female (with its fatter bump under the flower), so that we could take our friend's advice and manually "sex" the pumpkins by "inserting" some pollen from one of the male flowers. The females were rare, but the males were popping up all over the joint. Then one morning, we awoke to discover that every last male flower had been bitten off at the stem. Some females were still there, waiting expectantly, but like a bunch of haggard spinsters they withered on the vine. (Later--too late--we realized we could have stolen over to the neighbors to borrow a male appendage from one of their flowers, but the stud-farming of pumpkins might have caused some tongues to wag.)
We blamed the bunnies, of course. First, we purchased dried fox urine, marketed as the "scent of fear." The rabbits were supposed to have heart attacks within 50 feet of the stuff. Next, a friend suggested that the cookbook The Splendid Table said that human urine was more effective, and that with four males in the family we could fortify the perimeter most effectively. Other voices chimed in, some offering to send us bags of dog hair. We slathered the patch with pee (the boys enjoyed this aspect immensely) and rimmed it with reflective tape and mesh fencing. We hung a pie tin from a stake. The owl and its cousin, Creepy the Squirrel, got into the game to rough up the hordes of rodentia.
The creatures, whatever they were, kept at it. Finally, the truth dawned. Birds! Filthy, dirty, disgusting boids! Then we got "scare eye."
Scare-eye was no joke! It hung from an old fence pole next to the pumpkin patch, making the whole decrepit scene look even more like Lil' Appalachia. Occasionally the scarecrow's head would fall off into the mud, and its paws (encased in awful gardening gloves) were often resting near its privates.
Amidst this horror, one tiny pumpkin emerged and began to grow. It grew bigger! It turned orange! It was a beauty. It was worth all the pain and frustration. Then one day it immediately rotted on the vine and was chucked into the compost.
That was it. Our dream was over. We dismantled the leering scarecrow and left its body parts on the garage floor. Creepy the Squirrel was banished to the Hosta patch, where he waits to bite the unwary skunk. Scare-eye was unhooked from its pole and sent away, where it can do no more harm. Only the owl stays, wearing a slightly rakish fedora hat, to guard the one remaining pumpkin plant. This last, poor specimen has a few wan male flowers, but females have not emerged.
In retrospect, I should have bought that Jesus statue I saw at a tag sale around the corner. Jesus would have protected our pumpkins, with the Owl as his mute disciple. Together, they could have triumphed! A Mary on the Half Shell would have been the perfect complement, perhaps with a garden gnome or two as protection. Next year, Jesus, you will have a place in our garden, where you will smite the feathered host with deadly bolts of lightning and fiery hail!