A Place for Linus

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pumpkin Squash Flowers-Bird Back 40
I can feel it, can you? There's a shade of darkness in my morning sunshine. The days are getting shorter. There's still no identifiable "chill" in the air, but still I get that idea that things are changing. Fall is marching forward, and pushing out my old friend summer.

What does fall bring? Fall brings football! College football! Pro football! High school football! If you consider yourself a fanatic of the San Francisco Giants baseball team -- well -- fall can't come soon enough. 

Bird Back 40 Pumpkin Patch
In the garden -- fall brings something else. The corn stalks turn white and those green globe squash that we call pumpkins slowly begin to turn a familiar shade of orange. This is our fourth or fifth year growing pumpkins in a side yard of the Bird Back 40 -- and it may be the most successful year yet.

Squash bugs claimed and destroyed most of last year's crop. Determined to not allow that to happen again -- the wife that is Venus and I went on "squash bug alert" very early this past spring. Every bug we saw got squashed or sprayed with something it didn't like. For the most part, our vigilance has paid off. But new bugs pop up from time to time -- leading to yet another "squash party."

Pumpkin Ready for Harvest-Bird Back 40
I was always a big fan of the Charles Schultz comic "Peanuts" while growing up. Who wasn't? I bought every book offered through scholastic book sale programs at Standiford Elementary School in Modesto. I read ever comic panel in the Modesto Bee. I watched every special on CBS, and dutifully bought Dolly Madison doughnuts. Later, as the airing of these specials grew more sporadic and less trustworthy, I bought them on VHS and then DVD.

Charles Schultz will always have a place in the Bird Household.

It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown
Although there are many productions featuring the Peanuts gang, I suppose I am most drawn to the top three: Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas. It is the Halloween tale (It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown!) that retells some of the most famous recurring tales out of the Schultz comic strip. You can always count on Charlie Brown to get a rock while trick or treating, and Linus van Pelt invariably misses out on all the fun while waiting for the "Great Pumpkin" to make his yearly appearance.

I got to thinking about that recently. Linus wasn't looking for the best pumpkin patch or even the largest. He was looking for the most "sincere" of pumpkin patches. Then, and only then, would the Great Pumpkin make his storied appearance.

I suppose, after all these years, I got to wondering what "sincere" actually meant. I was surprised to find out that others have wondered the same thing. More people like Bill Bird? Nerd Alert!

A lot has been written about Linus' fascination with the Great Pumpkin. Some have theorized that Linus' belief in the Great Pumpkin as symbolic of the struggles faced by anyone with beliefs or practices that are not shared by the majority (Wikipedia). Still others have postulated that, "...if Linus is cultivating his pumpkin patch not merely for the pumpkins themselves, but as a means to the end of luring the Great Pumpkin, then he has an ulterior motive and his patch can never be truly sincere (Christopher L. Bennett)."

Pumpkin Patch-Bird Back 40
As for Charles Schultz? The man who dreamed up the Peanuts gang and gave us the Great Pumpkin? He found the entire debate to be rather humorous. He claimed no motivation beyond the humor of having one of his young characters confuse Halloween with Christmas (Wikipedia). Further evidence of this can be found in a comic panel where Schultz has Linus trying to convince other members of the Peanuts gang to go out and sing "pumpkin carols."

I am not sure if the pumpkin patch in the Bird Back 40 is "sincere" enough to draw someone as famous as the Great Pumpkin, nor do I know if it would interest Linus van Pelt. The blockhead in me would like to think so. But when I sit and gaze at the patch the wife that is Venus has cultivated this year, I am drawn to the memory of the Great Pumpkin, who never did make an appearance.

Now Ripening-A Pumpkin
Left to wander, the pumpkin vines have gobbled up a side yard and grown into numerous citrus trees, grape vines and the general garden area. It's not all that unusual to see a pumpkin protruding from the center of a lemon tree. I thought our modest patch would produce maybe a dozen pumpkins, which I was quite happy with. But then, about a month ago, the vines suddenly burped a dozen more pumpkins. The same event repeated itself two weeks later -- and may even happen again.

Will they ripen in time for the time-honored holiday known as Halloween? I would certainly think so. Pumpkins are, after all, part of the squash family. Anyone with experience knows that a tender, four inch squash can turn into the size of a baseball bat overnight if you're not paying attention. Pumpkins tend to grow very quickly. Many are showing a bright shade of orange this onset of fall. Still others are a greenish-yellow. And, everywhere I look during our daily bug inspections, there's another green pumpkin that just emerged.

Baby Pumpkin
The wife that is Venus will use these pumpkins to prepare pumpkin soup, pumpkin bread, roasted pumpkin seeds and, yes, pumpkin pie for the Thanksgiving holiday. Bill Bird will use the orbs to carve Jack O' Lanterns. Still others will find homes around our neighborhood. Why buy pumpkins when you can have the kids come over and hunt them for free?

Perhaps this is what sincerity is all about.

1 comment:


Squash bugs really are a problem in my garden. Your patch is looking good.