A couple of years ago, one of our adult sons decided to try to grow the largest pumpkin ever seen. He had saved the seeds from a giant pumpkin and when early summer arrived, he planted them in little pots. When green sprouts began to show, he distributed the pots to his niece and nephews and said, "We're having a contest to see who can grow the largest pumpkin."
They took home the seedlings, anticipating that giant jack-o'-lanterns would spring up the next week. Still, they weren't as enthusiastic as their uncle.
He didn't offer his mom and dad plants, so we bought our own, stuck them in the ground, and waited. It didn't take long for the green leaves to multiply and sprawl all over the ground.
Glenn, our son, planted his seeds on a hillside next to some zucchini and tomato plants. They, too, began to sprout greenery. It was difficult to tell which was the pumpkin and which was the squash, however, because their leaves are so similar.
Huge green leaves grew practically overnight. Weeks went by, and his pumpkin plants developed orange blossoms. So did his zucchini plants. Large zucchinis were soon found hiding under the green leaves. But what happened to the pumpkins?
When Glenn was very small - the youngest of four boys - we planted pumpkins on the hillside where we lived. They grew like wildflowers. The orange blossoms turned to little green fruits that grew and grew into good-sized bright orange pumpkins.
The boys loaded their Radio Flyer wagon and patrolled the neighborhood, selling their crop for a few cents. With that memory, I presumed that Glenn was hoping to have that kind of a crop to share with his little boy.
The niece and nephews, having other interests - dancing lessons, soccer, water polo, and school projects - lacked the time to give their pumpkins the TLC they needed. But they were still looking forward to seeing Uncle Glenn's giant pumpkins.
Finally, harvest time arrived. Glenn and his young son climbed the hill behind their house with great anticipation. They saw wonderful red tomatoes. They admired prize-winning squash. And they found the most perfectly shaped, brightest orange pumpkin they had ever seen.
"You won't believe it," Glenn said over the phone. "You've got to see this pumpkin."
In the meantime, our two pumpkins grew to a medium-large size. Nothing to brag about, but nice. Still, since the niece and nephews were out of the contest now, we confessed to having a couple that we could share and compare.
So we got together and showed him ours. "Now, where is this prize winning pumpkin of yours?" we asked.
"Well, come on," he said. "You have to climb the hill."
First we saw the ripe, red tomatoes. Then we saw and picked the giant-size green zucchini.
"Now," he said. "Get ready for this!" He held back a some big leaves, and underneath was a pumpkin. Not a giant pumpkin, but one the size of his hand. "Isn't that the cutest thing you've ever seen?"
He picked it and placed it in the cupped hands of his 2-year old son. The little boy's eyes were as big and round as the pumpkin he held.
"So, what happened to your giant pumpkin?" I asked.
"I think the zucchini won that contest," he answered. "But this one is a perfect size for Robbie. If it were any bigger he couldn't hold it."
Since then, there haven't been any more pumpkin-growing contests in our family. Now the contest is to grow the largest chili pepper. I think we'll sit back and watch the others on this one.