This weekend, we usher in autumn. Or, from the perspective of the leaves, fall. Or, from the perspective of the pumpkins, the apocalypse.
Many people absolutely adore this time of year. Trees decked out in vibrant colors and cool, dry fire-pit weather mark the gloriousness of the season. Simmer pots and crock pots are pulled out of storage as soups and stews replace burgers and potato salad.
And as we enjoy the shorter days and full week breaks between mowing, pumpkins in fields across our nation are beginning to shiver with fear. They know their end is imminent. Their days of basking in the sun without a care in the world are nearly over.
Some will meet a swift and humane demise. They will be butchered with sharp knives. They will be boiled and baked. Some will be canned for later. Some will immediately end up in pies, served up fresh and warm on the tables of their killers.
Folks make the argument that it is okay to humanely butcher the pumpkins and use them to feed their young. And their hubbies and neighbors and mothers-in-law. They stand by the reasoning that the pumpkins were put here for our nourishment. The flesh of the pumpkin offers many health benefits, they argue.
When mixed with nutmeg and cinnamon, pumpkins might be considered a superfood. Even I can’t refute the benefits of ingesting its rich antioxidants and vitamins. And while we tend to combine it with lots of sweet ingredients for treats like pumpkin pie or bread, the pumpkin itself is a low-calorie vegetable.
As long as they are treated humanely, I suppose harvesting pumpkins for food is acceptable. But there is simply no justification for the annual pumpkin apocalypse that happens every autumn. The ones that meet a quick death have it easy. What I truly have difficulty accepting is the torture and humiliation of thousands of innocent pumpkins every September and October. There is simply no excuse for this senseless, callous killing spree.
Some pumpkins are ripped from their vines and painted. Then they are displayed on a porch step or bale of hay, where they sit helplessly suffering a slow, humiliating death. Eventually, after enough rain, wind, and frost, they slump over and cave in. Flies lay eggs in their rotting flesh. Maggots consume their lifeless bodies.
Other pumpkins, typically the more robust ones, are scalped. Once their tops are severed, their innards are scraped out with hard metal spoons. Their seeds, and the bountiful future they represent, are then plucked free, salted, and roasted in a hot oven.
Again, the case for nutrition is made. Pumpkin seeds actually offer more health benefits than the mature pumpkin. But the reality of the cruel way they are harvested must be exposed.
After being scalped and scraped clean, the pumpkins are stabbed repeatedly. Chunks of flesh and rind are cut away and mercilessly discarded. At this point, the perpetrator has typically made a mockery of the pumpkin by carving a tooth-deprived face on one side.
But that’s not where the travesty ends. Candles are placed inside the hollowed out, lifeless pumpkins and lit on fire. At night, you can drive through the village and see countless wretched souls propped on porches, lit from within, glowing silent screams of pain and disgrace.
As if that is not enough, there are some who will dare to take the already hacked up, defiled pumpkins and heap more suffering upon them. They pick up the defiled pumpkins and violently smash what’s left of the carcasses into thousands of unidentifiable pieces.
I ask you, what did pumpkins ever do to deserve such a fate? We would never consider treating spaghetti squash, zucchini or eggplant in this treacherous manner. Acorn and yellow squash do not suffer brutal ends at our sticky, pulpy hands. Why, then, do we torture the innocent pumpkins?
The time has come to end the suffering. Pumpkins are bright, happy squash that deserve better. Friends sympathetic to the plight of the pumpkins must join forces. We must be strong and fight for these helpless orange gourds. Petitions must be shared on social media and liked by thousands. Bills must be written, upon which pork barrel expenditures can be attached.
Together we can create a future in which pumpkins can live out their lives happily on the vine. My grandchildren deserve a world in which only pumpkins that have lived long, full lives proudly and humanely become pie. Pumpkins should only be canned when they are good and ready, and not a moment before.
Frightening videos that expose the horrible facts about pumpkin abuse must be pushed to viral viewing levels. We must eradicate from our preschools finger play songs and coloring sheets that promote a culture of pumpkin violence. We must begin teaching our children respect for all squash, including the jolly, orange pumpkin.
The leaves are changing. The nights are cooler. Fall is here. Please, have mercy on the pumpkins.
Micki Bare is a columnist for the Arkansas News Bureau and the Courier-Tribune in Asheboro, N.C., and the author of Thurston T. Turtle children’s books. She and her family live in North Carolina. Her e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.