Thump, Thump, Splat!
Each autumn when the leaves began to turn from green to orange, the small town of Ravensberg in the Bracken Valley would earnestly prepare for the Great Fall Festival. Wreaths of orange, yellow, and red leaves would appear on front doors, grandmothers would begin practicing their pie making for the Great Pie-Pickin’ Contest, and kids would whisper schemes to win the Great Costume Competition. By tradition, one thirteen-year-old would have the honor of picking a pumpkin for the top of Graveyard Hill and overseeing the carving ceremonies at the Great Fall Festival.
This year, a fiery, redheaded boy, one Asher Rash, was chosen to fetch the Great Pumpkin. “I’ll get the biggest, best Great Pumpkin Ravensberg has ever seen!” Asher boasted to his grandmother one day as she was baking her traditional Great Pie-Pickin’ Contest winning pumpkin pie.
“I’m sure you will,” Grandmother Rash said, kneading dough with flour-coated hands, “but promise me one thing—If Mr. Bone, who lives next to the pumpkin patch atop Graveyard Hill, gives you any advice, listen to it.”
“Sure, Grandmother,” Asher said as he rushed out the door.
When he set out up Graveyard Hill the sun was high in the blue. As he climbed, he realized that the hill was much steeper than he had anticipated. By the time he reached the top, he was out of breath and ready for a break. He paused, taking in the pumpkin patch, full of huge pumpkins, the graveyard, rusty, uneven, and eerie, and beyond that, the small, ramshackle house where Mr. Bone lived.
Gathering his resolve, Asher marched into the pumpkin patch and went straight to the largest pumpkin. As he bent over and pulled out a pocketknife, he saw, out of the corner of his eye, the door to Mr. Bone’s shack open and a figure with a black cloak and a walking stick come limping across the graveyard toward him. Asher began sawing faster with his puny blade. When he reached halfway through the stem, a creaky voice called out, “Son, I have some tools that might help you.”
“That’s all right,” Asher called back, redoubling his effort to saw through the vine, sneaking a side-glance at the figure. “I’m doing just fine.”
At last, wiping sweat from his eyes, the pumpkin was free of the vine, and Asher stood and began rolling the giant pumpkin out of the patch. As long as he kept the momentum up, it wasn’t hard at all. “See! I did it all on my own!” Asher announced to the cloaked figure. The pumpkin began to gain speed.
“Wait! Stop!” Asher cried as the pumpkin hurtled down the hill, but the pumpkin would not listen. A thump, thump, splat later, Asher turned to trudge back to the pumpkin patch.
“All right,” Asher said to the figure with the cane, “I’ll try your tools. My hands are too tired to saw anymore.”
“I thought that might be the case,” the figure said, “so I brought these.” Coming forward slowly, he handed Asher a pair of gardening shears from under his cloak. “And please son, call me Uncle Bone.”
“Thanks… Uncle Bone,” said Asher, taking the shears, not liking the taste of the words.
With twenty hacks, Asher severed the vine of the next largest pumpkin in the patch. He began rolling it down the hill.
“You might want some help with that,” Uncle Bone counseled.
“Don’t worry. This pumpkin is smaller than the last one. I have it.” Just as he said the words, the pumpkin began rolling of its own free will. “No!” went Asher. Thump, thump, splat went the pumpkin.
With the shears hanging limply in one hand, Asher dragged his feet back to the patch. The sun was dipping low now, casting long-faced shadows. “Would you like some help, son?” Asher turned to see Uncle Bones wheeling a wheelbarrow across the patch.
“All right,” Asher sighed.
Taking the shears, Uncle Bone went over to the third largest pumpkin in the patch and showed Asher the proper way to use the shears. In one snip, Asher cut the vine. Together, Asher and Uncle Bone hefted the pumpkin into the wheelbarrow, and Uncle Bone showed Asher how to walk backwards in front of the wheelbarrow to prevent it from barreling down the Graveyard Hill.
“Thanks Uncle Bone!” Asher shouted up to Uncle Bone once he started down the hill.
“Say! What’s your name son?”
“Well Asher, say hello to my sister when you get home. She’s always had the best advice and pumpkin pie in Ravensberg. I’ll see you at the Great Fall Festival!”
“Wait! Who is your sister?” Asher paused his descent. “It isn’t Grandmother Rash, is it?”
“You’d be surprised how much you can learn from your family,” Uncle Bone said with a crooked half-smile. Then he turned, his cloak flowing behind, and began hobbling up Graveyard Hill towards his home through autumn’s deepening dusk.