Wheaton’s Way

The perils of pumpkin carving

I was so relieved when I saw that Halloween was still happening this year.

Home schooling, green strata pools and lockdown are one thing, but no trick-or-treating?

It’s the one day when kids are allowed to collect as much candy as humanly possible in a short period of time and Mum and Dad are OK with it.

I’ve always loved Halloween. Hey, do I really need to convince any of you that dressing up in costume is my jam? In fact, it doesn’t even have to be 31 Oct. for me to break out the wigs and such. Before you start down a path of judgement, allow me to clarify that I’m talking about transforming into a character for an event.

Many’s the night I’ve walked through Foster’s supermarket dressed as a witch or a pirate because I didn’t have time earlier to buy bread and the next day was Sunday. The number of stares thrown in my direction has lessened over the years; I think Cayman has just accepted me as the neighbourhood kook.

Anyway, as I was saying, I am so glad that Halloween is going ahead, ‘cos this week we held one of our annual family traditions at my house – pumpkin carving.

I didn’t want to get the pumpkins too far in advance, for all the reasons you can imagine. I made that mistake one year and ended up with heavy, orange, mushy, smelly orbs.

Nothing’s scarier than a rotten punkin.

Therefore, at T-minus 24 hours, I was pushing my cart – laden with 10 future Jack-O’-Lanterns – around the market, much to the amusement of other shoppers. The comments were witty and varied, but they basically all amounted to: Gee, Vicki, those are some mighty big pumpkins you’ve got. Chortle.

You may remember that in my previous article I hinted at an addiction to inflatables and Christmas decorations. At Halloween, I never think I have enough carving kits.

This year, I was determined to stick with what we already had in the house. Big saws, little saws, scrapers, markers… they were all wrapped up from 2019, ready to go. I did not need more. I did not need more. I did not need more.

Well, that chant went out the window when what should mine eyes behold but a battery-powered saw, specifically designed for the upcoming task.

Anyone who has cut the top off a pumpkin, then gone insane with a design and subsequently regretted it as carpal tunnel sets in, has no doubt been desperate for manufacturers to build a better mousetrap. This powered wonder had to be it.

Of course, I couldn’t get just one. Share? What are ya, nuts? So, I bought five. It was only when I got them home that I realised each required four ‘AA’ batteries. I wasn’t trying to light up Chicago, fer cryin’ out loud!

It was too late (I was too lazy) to return them, so I divested our utility shelves of hurricane-supply batteries and began inserting, keen to see one of these things revolutionise my carving skills.

The moment I pressed the button, I knew my latest acquisition had to be kept firmly out of the reach of children. The miniature saw sprung to frighteningly violent life. If we weren’t careful, we’d be adding a severed finger to our final designs.

As I put the last touches on the room (a large tarantula here, my Gryffindor cloak there… ), my family began to show up. What followed was an awesome afternoon and evening with the adults taking the task as seriously as the kids. In fact, the children had long finished and were watching a spooky film while a certain sibling was still peering at his pumpkin through reading glasses, making infinitesimal tweaks to his work. He was Michelangelo and this was his David. In orange. With oversized teeth.

In case you’re wondering about the success of the battery-powered saws, I am unhappy to report that after initial enthusiasm, my older guests cast them aside for the good old-fashioned manual versions.

“No good?” I asked, surreptitiously brushing away a single tear.

“No… ‘fraid not,” my sister said. “Honestly, they just really don’t work as well.”

Hmph. If I’d wanted honesty, I’da asked the local padre.

At the end of the night, we had 10 amazing pumpkins lined up on the table, glowing away in all their majesty. At least one person burned their finger on a tealight candle, but it ain’t Halloween until someone’s nursing a blister.

I told the delighted children that the wild chickens were in for a real treat the next day, as we had tureens of orange flesh and seeds to feed them. (And for those of you who think, “Oh, but why didn’t you keep the pumpkin seeds and roast them for yourself?”, you’ve clearly not spent hours trying to separate seeds from stringy sinew, only to end up with an underwhelming pan of dental work nemeses.)

The next day, the chickens gathered, as usual, outside the back door.

Boy, oh boy, I thought, as I carried a big bowl towards the garden. You lot will think you’ve died and gone to heaven.

They followed me at speed, nearly tripping me up as I went. With a flourish, I dumped the contents all over the grass. “There you go!” I cheeped.

They stopped in their tracks, looked at the mound of pumpkin, looked back at me, blinked, and basically said, “Ummm… where’s the cracked corn, woman?”

Ungrateful fowl.

Wait ‘til they get a load of those battery-powered saws.

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