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If Cinderella were to visit our garden in the hopes of finding transportation to Prince Charming’s little soiree, she would be deeply disappointed.
This isn’t because there wouldn’t be any mice to be magically transformed into a team of studly horses. It’s entirely possible that there may be a few rodents out in our garden who have managed to escape the attention of our cat, Sparkles. On the other hand, Sparkles continues to leave grisly “gifts” on our doorstep with disturbing regularity.
Just the other morning I found two deceased mice on our doormat, their tiny brown corpses arranged in a mathematically precise fashion. This was clearly the work of a calculating, cold-blooded killer who thoroughly enjoys planning and committing serial acts of rodenticide. My wife and I are glad that we aren’t a lot smaller or that Sparkles isn’t a lot bigger.
The dearth of prospective steeds isn’t why Cinderella would be disenchanted by our garden. Her hopes would be thwarted by the total absence of pumpkins in our pumpkin patch.
This wasn’t due to a lack of trying on my part. Our garden remained wetter than Sponge Bob’s socks until well past the normal pumpkin planting date. Unable to plow the garden, I frantically no-tilled some vegetable seeds even though the deadline for crop insurance was rapidly receding in the rearview mirror.
The seeds sprouted and the pumpkin plants grew rapidly, as if they sensed that they needed to be quick about it if they wanted to reproduce. But then we received a huge rainstorm, followed by another and another. This all happened within the span of a week and set in place a weather pattern that persisted all summer long.
I didn’t become overly worried about the perpetual saturation situation until I saw animals lining up two by two.
I dutifully hoed the garden whenever the soil dried a bit between rainstorms. It soon became clear that I was fighting a losing battle. The sweet corn remained pale and sickly, like that skinny guy on the beach who has sand kicked in his face by a bully and is belittled by his girlfriend.
The pumpkins tried to grow, but they didn’t have the chops to endure an environment that could best be described as hydroponic. Instead of sprouting a variety of veggies, the garden became a haven for frogs and toads. And one morning, I espied a salamander sauntering across the garden, acting as if he owned the place.
Salamanders give me the creeps. They are slimy and primitive and react reflexively to sudden stimuli. While these characteristics might qualify them for elective office, they also cause me to recoil with revulsion. I instructed our dog, Sandy, to “Get ’im!” The dog gave the amphibian a tentative sniff, snorted, and trotted off. That mutt is much smarter than I thought.
An early September deluge transformed the garden into a miniature lake, ending the growing season with all the subtlety of Niagara Falls. The few plants that had managed to grow became shriveled and limp. My pumpkin plans were squashed.
I’m not even sure why I like to raise those stupid things. All I know is that the weirder and wartier a pumpkin is, the more attractive it seems. Perhaps this has something to do with my own personal oddities. Maybe it’s a subliminal way of saying, “You think I’m strange? Take a look at this! Have you ever seen anything so peculiar?”
Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just weirdly attracted to quirky things. Bizarre pumpkins and creepy gourds are the circus sideshow of the vegetable world.
A few days ago, as my wife and I motored through a supermarket parking lot, I had to purposefully look away as we passed the ostentatious display of pumpkins. Hoping to alleviate my obvious distress, my wife asked, “Do you want to buy some pumpkins? It would be nice to have a few to decorate the house.”
“It wouldn’t be the same as having our own homegrown pumpkins,” I replied. “And it would seem deceitful. It would be no different than failing a college entrance exam and then buying my way in. I could never cheat on our pumpkin patch like that.”
“OK,” shrugged my wife, “Have it your way. But just to be clear, we’re only talking about some pumpkins. It’s not like you’re trying to bribe your way into an ethics class.”
As we pulled out of the parking lot, I stole a furtive glance at the lines of luscious orange orbs. I didn’t want my wife to know the shameful truth.
I was suffering from pumpkin dysfunction.
below: Sparkles the Cat inspects the 2014 pumpkin crop.
Jerry’s book, Dear County Agent Guy, is available at workman.com/products/dear-county-agent-guy.