virtual Web Art Museum
TRICK OR TREAT
By Rodney E.J. Chang
2014 Copyright Creative Frontiers International. Inc. All Rights Reserved.
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.
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.
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.
he picked out a couple packets, he noticed that one had extra writing scribbled
on the back, just under the p rinted directions for planting. It seemed somebody
had written a note to the future purchaser of that packet. It read,
rinted 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.”
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.
is silly, this must have been written by some mischievous kid.
was about to place it back on the shelf and fetch another packet. The one with
the extra message might have been tampered with.
his more adventurous intervened with,
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
rest of the normal size seeds in the packet he planted in the field along with
the other seeds.
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.
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.
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
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.
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!
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.
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
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.
trophy’s going to be for you, Pop.
Isaac, old fella, you been messing with pumpkin DNA?” questioned one farmer.
queried, “Don’t tell me you ain’t got a special secret fertilizer, you old
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.”
farmer’s wife whispered back at the woman, “It’s the devil’s work, if
you ask me.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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。
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.”
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.
somebody out in the night crowd shouted above the rest,
the pumpkin is moving!” The crowd went silent. How could that be?
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.
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
It’s quickly swelling outwards, like some sort of water balloon! It’s almost
as if, it’s going to b...”
“See? It’s quickly swelling outwards, like some sort of water balloon! It’s almost as if, it’s going to b...”
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.
the next few days, the Bloomington Hospital had no vacant beds. But fortunately,
almost miraculously, nobody was severely injured.
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.
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.