Lee Adams searches for the great pumpkin

by Lee Adams

The weather has finally cooled down and the leaves are beginning to fall. It’s that time of year… when pumpkins are piled high in great orange heaps for eager children to pick out and carve faces on.

For as long as I can remember, every year I have watched Charles Schulz’s 1966 cartoon ‘“It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.’” As a child my father and I always made a big bowl of popcorn and sat down in the living room floor to engage in our yearly tradition of watching this great classic. I often thought, ‘“Maybe I’ll sleep in the garden this year, just to see if Linus is right. Just to see if there really is a Great Pumpkin.’”

Of course, I knew the whole point of the story was that there wasn’t, but then again Linus always fell asleep, so he never really knew. Linus was adamant about the Great Pumpkin; he never doubted. Maybe I could be the one, I thought, the only boy to see the Great Pumpkin and ride it across the starry night sky past a full moon.

In the cartoon Linus says, ‘“I’ve learned there are three things you never discuss with people: religion, politics and the Great Pumpkin.’”

While the Great Pumpkin certainly may not be believed in by many, including children for that matter, many churches have learned that combining religion and pumpkins can be a win-win situation for them.

By selling pumpkins to raise money for church programs congregations have the opportunity to meet others in the community and invite them into their church body if they don’t already attend somewhere.

Centenary United Methodist Church on Friendly Avenue is one such church. The yard is full of bright orange balls and small brown twisted stems; from the road the entire ground appears orange. This is their 30th year of selling pumpkins for profit through a company called Pumpkins USA. The company allows a low-risk sales opportunity for churches to raise money for their needs while meeting their neighbors. Centenary puts their youth group in charge of selling pumpkins, giving teenagers the chance to earn discounts on mission-related trips and helping them learn good stewardship through tithing and giving to mission organizations. Each youth must work in the patch for a minimum of 20 hours to earn discounts on trips and more to earn extra privileges, such as a pizza party. Sixteen-year-old Kelly McCann is busy filling in gaps in the churchyard with fresh pumpkins today. She started attending Centenary about two years ago because her best friend went to church there.

Pumpkin patches are a matter of family tradition for others. The Parr family has been coming to Centenary for the past five years to get their pumpkins. Grandparents, brothers and cousins mill about the grounds, kids pointing out their favorites while parents try to snap a memorable photo or two. There are tiny pumpkins, small pumpkins, middle sized pumpkins and pumpkins as large as some of the kids themselves. Some kids, like 15-month-old Sam Whitlatch, like to crawl through the pumpkins as if they were in a large play area full of plastic balls. Five-year-old Colin Parr tries to climb one of the larger pumpkins before his mother puts a stop to it. Six-month-old Ellis Parr is on her first pumpkin-hunting trip. As she sits with her back to a pumpkin larger than she is, her mother vies for her attention, trying to get a smile out of her for a photograph.

One of my favorite things about this time of year is the pumpkin pie that will be made after Halloween. There’s nothing better than a warm slice of pumpkin pie with a huge glop of cold whipped cream on top. Linus may have been wrong about the Great Pumpkin, I don’t know. Sometimes I still think of lying out in the patch. But he was right about one thing and that’s that pumpkins are great ‘— a treat that lasts but a short season and brings happiness to all ages.

To comment on this story, e-mail Lee Adams at lee@yesweekly,com.