понедельник, 31 октября 2011 г.

The Pumpkin Man

By William Garvey

As a young man, I set out on a path to become a farmer. It started in our first garden, but worked its way to owning sheep, cows and a pig or two.

Each winter I perused an endless supply of seed catalogs. In one I saw a photo of a child standing beside a giant pumpkin. The ad announced a challenge to grow the first 1,000-pound pumpkin. This quest would carry us for the next fifteen years.

Our first challenge was the Michigan State Fair where we received our first ribbon. Later our family set a new state record for the heaviest pumpkin, at 545 pounds.

I set a goal of becoming the best pumpkin grower in the world and coined the name, "The Pumpkin Man."

In the spring of 2001, I decided to retire from growing pumpkins after one more season. As the summer ended, our biggest pumpkin, 700 pounds, cracked open. That disappointment confirmed my decision.

Then came September 11, 2001. We all held our breath. America was asked to give our best to heal our nation. One morning I woke and knew exactly what to do. I would take one of our best remaining 500-pound pumpkins to New York to help them smile.

On October 10, I started to carve. The Red Cross returned my call saying they would love to have our pumpkin. I told them I wanted to deliver it the next day, on the one-month anniversary of 9-11. I explained that I would carve it, then leave my home in Michigan at 3:00 a.m. and arrive in New York City 3:00 in the afternoon. They loved the idea.

My wife Lorraine and I started carving at 4:00 p.m. and finished at 10:00 p.m. We carved only one-half inch deep into the skin, in hopes it might last until Halloween. The finished pumpkin face had, for the left eye, a little boy praying and for the right eye, a little girl in prayer. A heart encircled them both. The nose was the firefighters putting up the flag at Ground Zero and the mouth was the word AMERICA shaped to make a smile. We wanted to show everyone who had lost so much that they were in our hearts and prayers.

I left for New York on the morning of October 11, 2001 at 3:00 a.m. The trip passed quickly and I made it to the mountains in Pennsylvania. In the night, the mountains stood so dark and powerful, with shades of gray gently cascading into blackness. As the sun began to rise, my field of view broadened. My senses started to wake up and I felt a renewed energy. On the horizon, the sun rose, cresting the mountain ridge ahead, it lit up the mountains with depth of color that stretched as far as I could see.

The orange, red and yellow colors flowed from the top of the mountains to the valley, a beauty only God could give.

I felt a presence that overwhelmed me. With tears in my eyes I thanked God for this beauty and asked for blessings on my journey.

As I neared New York City I saw the remains of the World Trade Center across the Hudson River. A broken wall was all that stood, like a stairway straight to heaven. Tearfully I asked God, "Help me touch the hearts of those who lost someone."

I made it to the Red Cross Family Assistance Center on the West Side of Manhattan. It looked like a converted warehouse. There were policemen everywhere. They went through an extensive search of my truck. One policeman chuckled saying, "You should have a license plate that says 'The Pumpkin Man.'"

I smiled. "Thanks, I once was that man and I guess I am again today."

While I waited to unload the pumpkin, a New York City police officer walked up. "How long did it take to carve the pumpkin?"

"About six hours."

He shook his head. "God Bless you man." He ran his fingers over each of the carvings, asking about the water beads around the little girl and boy. I told him it was normal for a carved pumpkin to seep water in an area of the carving. I shared with him that my daughter said, "The little girl and boy are crying for all who lost their mommies and daddies."

The policeman asked how long it took me to drive to New York.

"About eleven hours."

He again said "God Bless you man. You can't imagine how many kids you'll make smile."

He took a deep breath. "My brother was in one of the towers that went down."

I grabbed his shoulder. "Dear God, I am so sorry."

"You came so far; I can't believe you care so much."

"Everyone I know in Michigan and all over the United States cares as much as I do."

He then pointed. "All these police officers from all over the United States, they all really care."

"I've had a knot in my stomach and tears in my eyes since this all began. People like you are why I came."

On the long drive home I had a smile on my face and tears in my eyes. I had achieved my goal to help the people who had lost so much feel a little better. And I became "The Pumpkin Man" for one more day.

Then I prayed for everyone who lost someone. "God bless you man."

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