Carving a jack-o-lantern used to require little more than a pumpkin, an oversized kitchen knife, and a tourniquet. It was a simple matter of plunging a 10-inch French knife into the gourd of your choice and creating a triangle-eyed, square-toothed masterpiece of horror.
In those days, the trickiest thing about making your jack-o-lantern was deciding on how to light the candle.
Option one: Light candle, then attempt to lower it into the pumpkin without catching your sleeve on fire.
Option two: Put the candle inside the pumpkin first. Then attempt to light it without catching your sleeve on fire.
Option three: Accept the inevitable and just light yourself on fire, then go find a candle.
After a quick trip to the emergency room for stitches and some light skin grafting, you could return home and set your jack-o-lantern on the porch, where it would remain until gravity and molecular breakdown eventually caused it to collapse in on itself like the birth of a new star — appropriately enough, usually around Christmas time.
But somewhere along the way, things have gotten complicated. The 10-inch French knife — once the pumpkin-carver’s tool of choice — has been replaced by kits that include sophisticated, high-precision instruments that, aside from creating fancy Halloween scenes on your pumpkin, can also be used, if necessary, to perform an emergency triple-bypass. The first time I saw one of these kits was many years ago on Good Morning America, when Martha Stewart was re-creating the flying monkey scene from The Wizard of Oz on the face of an 800-pound pumpkin. After scooping out the insides with a back-hoe (which she had forged herself out of recycled Mason jar lids), Stewart demonstrated how anyone could sculpt their own gourd into a Halloween Mecca by first creating a simple pattern using common household items, such as a dry-erase marker, overhead projector, and $300,000 movie still.
In spite of this newfound knowledge, I kept with tradition because it’s hard to imagine any Halloween without a near-fatal knife wound to reminisce about.
That was until the year my children quietly took me aside and told me our pumpkins always look … how did they put it?
Being a father dedicated to his children’s happiness, I of course told them that I appreciated and respected their honesty. After which I told them Halloween had actually been cancelled this year, and that we would be proceeding directly to Arbor Day. That’s assuming that Santa and the Easter Bunny were still missing.
I didn’t really say that! Ha! Ha!
Okay — so I did.
The important thing is that my children have learned to laugh HEARTILY whenever their therapist brings the subject up.
As you’ve probably guessed, I gave in and bought a fancy carving kit this year. The first thing I discovered about these kits is that, once spread out, the assortment of tools bares a striking resemblance to an operating tray on Grey’s Anatomy: lots of shiny things that look sharp but appear to serve no obvious purpose.
Next, there are the instructions, which describe how the tools can be used to create any of the following As Seen on TV! images:
1) Witch riding broom across moon.
2) Black cat with hair standing on end.
3) Bat sitting on tombstone.
4) Martha Stewart.
Included in the kit are four patterns, along with a list of the really cool patterns which, naturally, are sold separately. Knowing how important this was to my children, I was willing to make one final trip to the store in order to obtain the blueprints to our ultimate pumpkin masterpiece:
Martha Stewart hitting bat with tombstone.
Of course, by the time you read this, we will have already completed this year’s jack-o-lantern. I promise to share the details with you.
Just as soon as I put these flames out.
(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation. His first book, Humor at the Speed of Life, is available from Port Hole Publications, Amazon.com or Barnes & Noble.)
52 thoughts on “No pumpkin-carving experience is complete without a near-fatal knife wound”
I was thinking this year, I might go vegan and carve my jack-o-lantern to resemble a pumpkin…either that or simply buy a pumpkin pie from the store and leave that out.
Let me know if you leave a pumpkin pie out. I’ll bring the Cool Whip.
You have no idea.
Scratch that; you probably do.
When they invent a pumpkin kit that kills the smell of said pumpkin’s innards then I may invest in one. Either that, or Monsanto needs to get on top of developing pre-spiced pumpkins.
The only use for pumpkin innards is to flick on people after pretending to sneeze. This is really fun in the waiting room of a hospital.
“Oh my gourd, it’s ebola!”
LOL! Next time I head to the hospital waiting room for kicks, you’re coming with me!
Oh, yes, we’ll definitely want pictures of this one. Grafted skin and all.
Look for it in the November issue of the journal Medicine.
Haha, hopefully they’ll put that tiny black bar over your eyes so you won’t be identifiable.
It’s not my eyes I’m worried about.
Reblogged this on Playing for Time and commented:
A timely post from Ned. Ray Villafane, eat your heart out.
I’m on pumpkin-carving detail tonight. Will compare notes/wounds.
Agreed. It could save lives. Or at least the need for skin grafting.
These days, NOTHING is easy when it comes to parenting, Ned.
Personally, I blame you.
I’ll shoulder the blame. At least for years of crappy jack-o-lanterns.
It’s all fun and games until Martha gets hit with a bat.
I planted an entire pumpkin patch this year and produced 3 measly pumpkins. Two of the three were then eaten by squash bugs after harvesting. The third remains on my doorstep…uncarven and untouched.
I’m thinking about putting a sign by it that says, “Pumpkin carved by Congress”
Though…the poor little thing wouldn’t have made it to my doorstep if Congress was in charge 😉
Reblogged this on williamkaramk.
Ah, another person enamoured with the days of old…..I miss them…their ease, their simplicity….it didn’t matter then if you had a “stupid”-looking pumpkin…everyone else did too.
Exactly! I’m tired of people raising the bar with their pumpkins. Plus I stink at it.
Pics are a must! I am dying to know if you still have all your fingers and you eyebrows?
I think that’s called “sacrificing for your art.”
LOL!!! Fortunately, I’m a grandma so the kids have moved out. However, my hair is only now growing back from the fire. But now it came in white!! 😉 Hey, did you know that you can design Tinkerbell on your pumpkin now. All it takes is a nail gun! Have fun! 😉
HA! Looks like I’m off to the store to get a nail gun…
it sounds like we are at the same skill level in this arena. tomorrow i’ll be making a giant pumpkin with my class indwell be painting. glittering and feathering their thing> only cutting involved will be hacking out a hole on the top to dig out the slime.
By the time you read this, you will probably have been slimed by pumpkin mucus. Possibly even glittered and feathered. I just want you to know, as a parent, we appreciate your sacrifice… so please come back in spite of whatever those kindergarteners might’ve done to you.
slimed, glittered, feathered and seeds cooked. you are welcome –
Everything has become over the top. I LOVE it!!!!
Yes, except for my personal jack-o-lantern skills apparently!
I’m a frustrating artist, so I enjoy pumpkins as a canvas. That said, there have been years when I wasn’t prepared and cut a faces in them as the sun set!!!!
Isn’t cutting pumpkins at sunset some kind of Druidic ritual? I’d be careful if I were you 😉
So that’s why the lights went out and the furniture was rearranged when they came back on!
Hahaha! Maybe the forrest in your area is where the spirits of deceased furniture movers go? 😉
Or maybe the furniture likes to play when the lights go off. I think I’ll leave them on and carve the night before this year….
Good plan. You might want to carve on the porch instead of the kitchen table, just to be safe.
Good idea! It wouldn’t be as upsetting to find that furniture all askew.
I’ve been trying to get the kid to come with me to a local pumpkin patch to pick out some pumpkins, but he keeps blowing me off. One year we blew it off until Halloween came and went. But this year I really want the pumpkin seeds, so come hell or high water, I’m getting some pumpkins! Oh, and I usually light the candle with one of those long lighters, through the mouth. So yes, I carve a big mouth.
Ahhhhh, pumpkin seeds. The gourd’s only redeeming quality aside from pie. And as something to throw at the raccoons. Thanks for the tip on lighting the jack-o-lantern, by the way. I’ll give that a shot and probably use my mouth as a stencil to make sure the opening is big enough.
As for your son, no mucus scooping = no seeds. Assuming he cares…
He doesn’t care. In fact, he gives me the pleasure of scooping mucus and then he does the face on his pumpkin. He can’t tolerate that first part, and it doesn’t bug me. BTW, just came from a pumpkin patch. $3 per pumpkin- just leave the money in the box.
That sounds like the best pumpkin patch ever 😉
And I am familiar with pumpkin-mucus aversion. Our oldest son, 15, who has Aspergers, is very particular about textures — and mucus isn’t one of those he will get anywhere near. Heck, I wouldn’t either if I didn’t have to!
such a cool post…
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@”a 10-inch French knife…” – Laguiole or Opinel?… 🙂 I love pumpkins and their seeds, but I’ve never craved any… 🙂 my very best and cheers! Mélanie
I tend to stick with Henckel knives 😉
Thanks, and cheers to you too, Melanie!
I used to get very creative when I had step-children. It was one of my favorite times of year. I do miss the 8-piece open heart surgery set. At least I have some great pictures of pumpkins-gone-by. (and no third degree burn scars as a reminder!!)
I heard Martha Stewart performed an emergency tonsillectomy with her 8-piece set once, but her staff members all sign a confidentiality agreement —so no one is talking. Or maybe they’ve all had tonsillectomies and literally can’t talk.
It’s great you still have the photos, Susan. Definitely better than if you’d kept the originals 😉
Haha….sworn to secrecy has just taken on a whole new meaning! 😉
I went to a suburban pumpkin-carving party last Saturday. What an ordeal! Looking at all the elaborately-carved masterpieces next to my geometric shape cut-outs gave me a new benchmark for my utter lack of creativity. We had two pumpkins–one for each daughter. I opened the second pumpkin and it was rotten inside. A grey-ish gelatinous mush whose stench almost knocked me flat on my ass.
Like everything, eventually that style of geometric carving will make a comeback and you will be at the forefront. Hey, even bell-bottom pants had a comeback.
I look forward to seeing the photos. I couldn’t stop laughing throughout this entire piece! I love your sense of humor Ned, and I enjoy it in your writing as well. 🙂
Thanks so much 😉 I’ll see if I can snap a few photos before the ambulance arrives.