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              By Rodney E.J. Chang

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Old farmer Isaac Barnes now moved about with hunched shoulders. He had been laboring for the past fifty years on his family’s ten acres just outside of Cope, Indiana. His pale face, like his fields between crops, displayed furrows of wrinkles. Islands of black spots mapped his facial skin surface from working too many years in the open fields under the blazing Midwestern sun. Like himself, his farmhouse, barns, and tractors were worn out, the annual crop productions were much less than when he and the farm were at their prime. That was such a long time ago.  










This day Isaac did what he had always done. Although plumb tired and with all the aches and pains from farming over a lifetime, Isaac undertook what he did every late spring before it relented to autumn. Like the passing seasons, the farmer repeated his own annual cycle of change. He bought new seeds to plant the farm’s pumpkin patch.  








       It was only five years ago since his friend, Pete Jensen, closed Jensen’s Farm Supply & Seed at Martinville, the larger town just west of
Cope, situated along the IN-37. Now Isaac had to drive his old pickup truck up north, taking the interstate up to Indianapolis where Home Depot had a nice array of seeds. He didn’t like coming into the big city, some thirty-five miles away from Cope. Having spent life in relative isolation as a farmer, traffic congestion and large crowds made him uncomfortable. After picking up farm supplies and the seeds, although cheaper here at the discount box store, he wouldn’t come back for another couple months until it was necessary. Making an occasional run up to the city did help cut cost to keep the farm operating.  










Isaac returned this time of year because he had become accustomed to the quality pumpkins seeds sold at Home Depot. They always delivered a decent crop of plump, well-formed pumpkins that made great pies, a tidy little profit, and provided a surplus that he donated to local charities. It was good pumpkin. Isaac Barnes was an expert in judging the quality of produce. He had to be as a farmer.  









As he picked out a couple packets, he noticed that one had extra writing scribbled on the back, just under the printed directions for planting. It seemed somebody had written a note to the future purchaser of that packet. It read, 







      “Congrats. You hold the packet with a special seed. You will be surprised. But plant, only if you dare.”  






That sounded odd, but bored from decades of seasonal compulsory routine to till and harvest the fields, Isaac was in the mood for some adventure. But then his practical side spoke to him.  








This is silly, this must have been written by some mischievous kid.  







Isaac was about to place it back on the shelf and fetch another packet. The one with the extra message might have been tampered with.  







Then his more adventurous intervened with,  







But what if there really is something special in this here packet? Well, there’s only way to find out, ain’t there? Besides, hey, what harm can there be? It’s only $1.99 a pack.  







By now his curiosity had been piqued. So he purchased the item, along with another two dozen packs that would be required for the plot of land, close to the back of the farmhouse, where he, and generations before, had always planted the annual pumpkin patch. The pent up scarecrow in the barn awaited its annual liberty pass, to once more be set free, standing guard in the fields under open skies.  








       After tilling the soil, he was ready to plant the seeds. Isaac had separated the packet with the unusual writing from the others and saved it for last to plant it contents. He opened the paper pocket and poured the seeds on a chipped plate in his paint-peeling, country kitchen. At this point in Isaac’s life, he lived alone. His wife Dorothy had gotten “the cancer” and passed on a few years ago. She was buried under the big oak tree on the side of the barn. His two girls had grown up, married, and abandoned the farm for city life.  









Closely inspecting the contents for anything peculiar, the Isaac was not disappointed. For among all the normal looking seeds, there was one that appeared much larger.  








Could it be? This one is abnormally big for its kind. I wonder.... I’ll plant this in a special container instead of with the rest of the seeds in the field. That way I can observe how it does. Then I’ll place the pot with it outside along with the rest in the ground, once I got it going good, so it can get the same sun and watering.  








The rest of the normal size seeds in the packet he planted in the field along with the other seeds.  






A week or so passed and the seedlings were sprouting, including the special one planted within a large ten-gallon vinyl pot. Its leaves and vines looked like any other pumpkin plant. Soon flowers were withering, giving way to new bulbous growth that would be the pumpkins. The growths grew at the ordinary rate and size. Weeks later, Isaac decided to move the potted plant outside. He removed it from the container and planted it with the others in the field. His expectation that it would produce exceptional size fruit had increased as the new planting flourished with his special attention and care.










Isaac enjoyed waiting with excitement as the pumpkins started their period of growth in size. However, disappointedly, the plant that had sprouted from within the pot produced the same size pulpy fruit as the rest of the field.  








Well, I figured so anyhow, he consoled himself. Was fun, however, hoping all this time for something special to show itself. But nothing loss; at least got me some regular pumpkins growing outta that seed.  








Busy with more important farming chores like riding the tractor to get the fields ready for the winter frost, Isaac forgot about the patch, knowing that the pumpkins were well on their way to mature size and didn’t need any added care for now. The crop would be harvested before Halloween and through Thanksgiving.  









When it was time again to inspect the growing crop, Isaac noticed that, among the scattering of orange globes, there was a huge one that stood out among the others. And it had the perfect shape for the classic form of a Halloween Jack O’ Lantern. At this point, the others were about the size of a volleyball, whereas this spectacular specimen was as voluminous as a huge beach ball. Old man Isaac Barnes was really excited now. The seeds in that area of the field had come from the same packet that the large seed was in!  




的。而且它的形状恰 好可以来做万圣节的南瓜灯。其它南瓜大概只有排球大小,而那颗大南瓜却足有沙滩球那么大。老





      Could it really be? The big seed was the wrong one. Could be that something special could come from a regular looking and size seed? 

Having bought seeds all my life, this wouldn’t be the first time that I’ve been fooled.  








After another week had passed, he couldn’t any longer hide his wonderment over the phenomenon that was developing next to his house. By now the pumpkin, surprising him in that it was derived from an ordinary seed – not the peculiar larger one – had the same diameter as one of his tractor wheels. Neighboring farmers and their families came on over and gawked at the behemoth, still enlarging at an amazing rate.  









By the time it grew to the size of his secondhand, golf caddy vehicle, it was on the local radio news. Isaac was licking his chops, knowing he would be the winner in the annual local biggest pumpkin contest. His family, since Farmer Mel Spaeth initiated the contest two decades ago, had never gotten higher than fourth place. He thought of his deceased parents and knew how finally winning would make them proud, wherever they were now.  









This trophy’s going to be for you, Pop.  







“So, Isaac, old fella, you been messing with pumpkin DNA?” questioned one farmer.  







Another queried, “Don’t tell me you ain’t got a special secret fertilizer, you old fox.”  







The wife of yet another farmer whispered to her husband, “Barnes is probably messing with steroids. The thing’s gotta be unsafe to eat. Maybe it should be disqualified from our contest.”  







Another farmer’s wife whispered back at the woman, “It’s the devil’s work, if you ask me.”







Isaac didn’t provide any answers, not even telling where he had bought the seeds. He enjoyed keeping his competition guessing about his sudden prize possession.  








But as things turned out, he never did submit the prize pumpkin for competition. Not when, a group of IU, or Indiana University, students visited, raved at the humongous form, and agreed to pay a whopping two thousand dollars for it. They originally offered one thousand, but Isaac knew how to bargain, having sold produce all his life. He knew the youngsters just had to have it. The rich fraternity boys had seen it on the news on television. He knew they had come to his farm set to buy.  





毕竟他卖了一辈子农产品。他知道那群年轻人迫切地             它。那个有钱的友爱学生会在电视新闻上





Soon enough, Isaac had sold his prize and it rode out of Cope, secured to a flatbed truck, along IN-44 to Martinville, then southward taking the IN-37S to Bloomington, where the students’ campus and fraternity house were located. Passing drivers along the freeway stared at the huge monstrosity. Most, however, thought it wasn’t a real pumpkin but a plastic construction for a pep rally at IU just further south, about twenty-five miles away.  










A mischievous kid in a passing car shot some BB pellets into it, not that it caused any obvious damage. The pumpkin flinched, but it wasn’t perceptible to anyone.  







At first the monstrosity was destined to be placed on the front lawn of the fraternity house. However, student body pressure convinced the fraternity to be generous and position it on campus where the whole university community could admire it. The frat members agreed, but a sign stating “Donated by Delta Omega” had to be posted next to it. It was a deal easily approved by the student body government and university administration.  




他们把南瓜放在校园  里,这样全大学的人都能来参观它。友爱学生会只好同意,但是却坚持南瓜旁

边要放一个写着 由 德 尔塔欧米茄协会捐赠的牌子。学生社团和校管处很轻松地同意了。




Being that the wide-open area around Showalter Fountain served as an assembly area that could accommodate a large crowd of students, the pumpkin was lowered from the flatbed truck and placed on a flat grassy lawn close by. It also was the location of the upcoming pep rally.  








The pumpkin was designated to headline the football pep rally against archrival Wisconsin. Among the dogwood, elm, and maple trees that made IU distinguished for having “one of the most beautiful landscaped campuses of American universities,” now sat what the students nicknamed, “The Great Pumpkin.”  








       Its rich orange color looked right at home among the many autumn red, orange, and yellow leaves that graced the array of trees on the beautiful campus. IU, endowed with large vintage buildings and acres of trees with their leaves turned golden, is a sight to behold. Between summer and winter it is truly a traditional, Midwestern, autumn college setting.  









To everybody’s amazement, even after the pumpkin had been severed from its vine, it was still expanding in size! It was impossible, yet it was happening. Professors from the botany department were taking samples from the back surface (as to not deface its designated frontal view) to study its DNA. In order to do this, the faculty had to secure written permission from the fraternity boys, as the pumpkin was their purchased property. And why shouldn’t they give permission? Maybe the research might discover something important, and that would make their ala mater(alam mater?) that much more renown and prestigious.  










When it got as big as a house, farmer Isaac Barnes was called upon and taped for an interview to be aired on television, answering questions on how he was able to grow such an amazing specimen. He then revealed that it had come from a seed in a packet from the Home Depot in Indianapolis. Farmer Barnes told the interviewer how proud he was to make two thousand dollars after investing only $1.99 in a pack of seeds. But that didn’t make for exciting news. So, somehow, the media storyline changed to the story about how farmer Isaac Barnes bought the seeds from some mysterious pawnshop owned by gypsies, which was hidden in an alley in the seedy, gritty, low-income part of the city.  











A competing television station instead went with the football story. The IU fraternity that bought the pumpkin for the school made for a more appealing angle for this dilemma of the giant pumpkin. The young, handsome college students beefed up TV ratings in this city that supported their Hoosiers. With enthusiasm and excitement, the students predicted how their “Hosiers(Hoosiers?)-Big Daddy” mascot was going to help bury the visiting Badgers from neighboring Wisconsin. Good looking Vince Adams, president of the fraternity and obviously coming from money, said on TV how the Wisconsin Badgers were going to get bashed by their Hoosiers, even if IU was a 7-point underdog in the football betting lines. He predicted on how the losers were going to be forced to “eat pumpkin till they threw up.” With Halloween a few days away, the expansive campus in full bloom with the red, orange and yellow leaves of autumn as setting, this football story was just made for Midwestern TV. The Wisconsin-Indiana matchup was always a big game for the region. The new IU stadium would be sold out. With both teams having the same school colors, all the seats would be filled with color coordinated red and white.  
















      The night of the anticipated big pep rally had come. Television crews were there and readied. There was a large bonfire close to the pumpkin. The huge mass was now embellished with the traditional Jack O’ Lantern eyes and mouth. It was literally a monumental project. Students of sculpture from the art department had the honor of performing the task. It was necessary to install a makeshift scaffold to reach the height were the eyes and mouth needed to be carved.  










The giant pumpkin’s expression, towering above the hordes of students that had come to the rally, looked devilish in the flickering light of the large bonfire. Now endowed with a face, it almost looked alive. And hungry.  








It had now grown to the size of a two-level house! It was so full of flesh that it seemed to be bulging outwards at the seams. TV camera crews were taking it all in for national television. The event was a dramatic spectacle of macabre, nightmarish shouting and almost tribal-like chanting. Because of the national publicity about the “Giant Pumpkin of IU,” the Indiana-Wisconsin game replaced the more important match up of Ohio State vs. Penn State on the Big Ten Conference television network.  










       Some students, dressed in red sleeved flannel shirts with “Hoosier Football” glowing in white lettering, used torches to set ablaze what appeared to be a large badger form made out of wooden branches covered with cardboard and paper-mâché. The huge circle of students that was around their symbolic captive roared their consent once the mock mascot of the other team was fully aflame. The scene reminded some of a pagan ritual in “Lord of the Flies.”  









“Burn the Badgers!” yelled the shapely cheerleaders as they did some somersaults next to the flame. Eerie elongated shadows raced along the concrete pavement in unison, remaining attached to the tumbling firm and curvaceous bodies.  








Suddenly somebody out in the night crowd shouted above the rest,  







“Look, the pumpkin is moving!” The crowd went silent. How could that be?  







Only the crackling sound of the bonfire was audible. The mock badger was now merely a flaming armature of the assembled kindling. All eyes shifted from the burning heap to the Jack O’ Lantern freak of nature.  









A female student, selected to be interviewed because of her glamour – she looked like a young Marilyn Monroe, cried out with fear into the TV crew’s microphone,  








“See? It’s quickly swelling outwards, like some sort of water balloon! It’s almost as if, it’s going to b...” 







Before the shapely blond co-ed in front of the TV camera could finish, the giant pumpkin BURST. The live TV feed went blank. The camera – as well as the pretty co-ed – was positioned too close.  








       There was a deafening blast and several hundred of the closest were knocked off their feet by mushy orange stuff. As they squirmed about on the ground, some moaning in pain, they found themselves covered with soft pumpkin flesh and seeds. There was no backup camera. People watching TV in their homes stared at their blank screens before the message of “Sorry, we are having technical difficulties...” came on the screen.  









For the next few days, the Bloomington Hospital had no vacant beds. But fortunately, almost miraculously, nobody was severely injured.  







Wisconsin ended up winning that year. Eventually nobody remembered the final score. It had been close, but not enough points were scored by the undermanned Hoosiers. At least the home team had beaten the Vegas “spread.” The Big Ten Conference Badgers would end up that year within the top ten in the college football rankings of the Associated Press. In retrospect, IU was proud to have played them that close, as there are over one hundred Division I college football teams across the country.  










As for the pumpkin, the media put closure on the mishap and said it was a special, never-to-be-explained “Trick or Treat,” one that nobody would ever forget. It remained a mystery of nature, and then grew into Halloween legend for this Midwestern college town and the surrounding rural communities.  









        Meanwhile, back at the botany department lab, the researchers found genetic material they had never seen in a pumpkin. Or in any other plant or animal known to science.  










       It seemed not of this world.  





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