Heavyweight Heartbreak & Pumpkin Perseverance
Our family recently returned from a week-long road trip to Rocky Mountain National Park, where we enjoyed the splendor of one of this nation's most incredible landscapes. As mid-westerners, the awe of 14,000 ft peaks, bull elk in velvet, and the nervous anxiety of one-way switchback roads will never wear off. As a giant pumpkin grower, the nervous anxiety of leaving the pumpkins on auto-pilot will never wear off either. Prior to departure, I ran to the store and purchased a $30 battery-operated automatic watering timer. What an amazing piece of technology this is, ensuring that the patch would be consistently watered over the 8-day absence without having to rely on friends and relatives who just don't understand our obsession. Upon returning home from beautiful mountains of Colorado, I raced to the patch to take an initial survey. All four fruit were intact and appeared to have grown significantly. Whew. After 10 years of root disease misery, I was 4 for 4 in respectable giant pumpkins on the vine moving into August. Unprecedented. I went to bed that Saturday evening breathing a sigh of relief, yet cautiously optimistic knowing there's still 2 months of disaster potential before weigh-off. Sunday morning I walked out to the patch to begin servicing the week's worth of absence...weeds seem to know when I leave and kick it into high gear. Same goes for rogue female sets that somehow go from pea-size flower to 25lb sucker in record time. The puckered blossom end on my 1904 Steil pumpkin was something I was paying attention to, but one can really never know if the tissue is 1/8th of an inch thick or 6 inches thick. On this particular morning, apparently it was 0" thick. Within an 8 hour time frame, this pumpkin went from a completely sealed hummer estimating 850lbs on day 48 to a heavy load of compost. A one inch long by quarter inch wide fissure opened up just above the blossom on the largest, fastest growing pumpkin in my patch. Every competitive giant pumpkin grower's nightmare just became reality. Having been down this road of abject defeat so many times in my past, my initial reaction to realizing it was the end for this pumpkin was a quasi-smirk and a vocal "huh". I guess I've come to expect defeat in the patch. This hobby is unique in how it relies upon incredible skill/hard work and, most certainly, even more incredible luck. There was nothing I could do, skill-wise, to change this outcome. I was completely at the mercy of luck and mother nature. Maybe that's why my reaction to this patch tragedy was muted. Despite defeat, the Stockholm Syndrome of this hobby keeps us coming back for more punishment. The glimmer of hope that we can buck mother nature's blows and cash in on some luck to weigh a scale buster this fall is the (de)illusion we cling to. Persevere, fellow pumpkin growers.