Your decomposing pumpkin could threaten mankind

This weekend, watch for falling pumpkins.

I left the house this morning and made an important realization: What I had assumed was a fleece-lined, bright orange sweatshirt laying crumpled on the front steps was actually NOT a garment at all.

It was our jack-o-lantern.

This realization was made while attempting to pick it up. Though my intention was to give my children a stern lecture on taking care of their clothing, I decided instead to scream uncontrollably after grabbing a handful of pumpkin mucus. Somehow, our pumpkin’s aging process had accelerated, causing it to collapse in on itself and sprout white fur — literally — overnight.

This isn’t an isolated incident. Anyone who hasn’t disposed of their jack-o-lantern by now has witnessed this process, which we can all agree defies the natural laws of physics. One morning, your pumpkin’s face is triangle-eyed and gap-toothed as normal. The next morning, it is Buddy Hackett.

Should the process be allowed to continue, there’s a chance your pumpkin will actually collapse so far in on itself it will create its own gravitational pull and eventually threaten the space-time continuum. To avoid a cataclysmic event ushering in the return of bell-bottom pants, you have a responsibility to the rest of us to dispose of your gourd immediately, even if it means scraping it up with a shovel and transporting it to a government facility.

However, for those of you who remember to dispose of your pumpkin before it contains enough organic matter to become self-aware, you have another option, which is to drive to Milton, Delaware for the annual “Punkin Chunkin World Championships.” There, you will find the kind of excitement one can only get from jettisoning a large gourd as far as possible without the aid of rocket fuel.

The annual event, which has taken place each year since 1986, got started the way a lot of sporting competitions do: by having two men argue over who can throw something the farthest.

In this case, an anvil.

Fortunately, fate (most likely, in the form of a pulled groin muscle) intervened, and Punkin Chunkin was born. In a nutshell, participants use catapults, air cannons and oversized slingshots to hurl large pumpkins over great distances. Last year, Bruce Bradford’s winning toss set a new world’s record but, tragically, took the life of an Amish man during a barn raising in nearby Pennsylvania.

The good news is, Punkin Chunkin is catching on across the U.S.
Soon, you may not have to drive as far as Delaware to chunk your pumpkin! The bad news is, because of growing popularity, you could, at this very moment, be standing in a Punkin Chunkin drop zone. This is similar to standing in a golf course drop zone except, in this case, no one will be yelling “FORE!” before you get hammered with a 10-pound gourd traveling in excess of 60 mph.

Just to be safe, I would avoid going outside until the competition officially ends this weekend. Assuming, of course, there isn’t a sudden shift in the space-time continuum.

In the event that happens and I find myself wearing checkered bell-bottoms, I ask that you please direct me to the nearest Punkin Chunkin drop zone.


image(Ned Hickson is a syndicated columnist with News Media Corporation and a member of the writing team at Long Awkward Pause. This has been an excerpt from his book, Humor at the Speed of Life, available from Port Hole Publications, or Barnes & Noble.)

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Ned's Blog

I was a journalist, humor columnist, writer and editor at Siuslaw News for 23 years. The next chapter in my own writer’s journey is helping other writers prepare their manuscript for the road ahead. I'm married to the perfect woman, have four great kids, and a tenuous grip on my sanity...

48 thoughts on “Your decomposing pumpkin could threaten mankind”

  1. Punkin Chunkin is a safe well-organized sport with strict rules and even stricter government regulations. What is dangerous is having twenty or thirty neighbors practicing for the competition. It doesn’t get bad until one fires a pumpkin into the next guy’s shed – then all hell breaks loose. There is no war so vicious as pumpkin wars.

      1. That is why it is important to keep in mind that neighborhood warfare and alcohol don’t mix. If you are going to launch an attack on your neighbor, don’t drink.

  2. No kidding! I was thoroughly disgusted one year to discover just how quickly (and gross) a pumpkin decomposes. I barely touched the sides long enough to see all the mold/fuzz growing and it collapsed in on itself… and yes, you can’t contain it….a scream (or incredibly large gasp) escapes the human mouth…or maybe that’s the sound the pumpkin makes as it disintegrates making noise like air loose from a tire…or balloon that wasn’t tied, or someone sitting on a whoopee cushion. (depends on size of pumpkin & how quickly everything happens)

    I would be interested in said event…of course, being in southern CA, where the population is high (everywhere, people living on top of each other) – we would have to catapult them into the ocean and try hit the sharks that have been cruising Newport Beach lately. And by “them,” I mean the gourds…although, catapulting people to the sharks. Hmmmm.


  3. Okay, color me amazed. You still had enough of your pumpkin left to pick up actual gourd snot? (Gleep…can’t believe I just said ‘snot’…one of my most hated words of all time.) Ahem. Back to my point. (Yes, there IS one. Of sorts.) Here in sunny Florida, where we are busy breaking our OWN temperature records, any pumpkin left sitting outside more than 24 hours is likely to explode. Or implode. Or simply go green with rot, and attract carrion flies the size of bats. I was forced to resort to…gasp, choke…STYROPUMPKINS… several years ago. Now I’m happy. I can leave these out until Christmas. Or even longer. I’m thinking they’ll look cute with little, pointy party hats and noisemakers, come New Year’s Eve.

    Holidays in Florida…what can I say?

    1. The Christmas Styro-Pumpkin story was one of my favorite holiday stories as a kid!

      Did I mention my Dad drank a lot?

      Anyway, whatever you need to do to keep from being carried off by bat-sized carrion flies, Marcia. We can’t have that happen 😉

  4. Between looking like Buddy Hacket and the poor, sadly departed Amish man….I am glad I took a stand this year and didn’t even carve a pumpkin. However, I am now going to have to dig into the arsenal to see what I have at home to throw at my neighbors!

  5. Pumpkin Pie shrunk down to a pudding of orange drool. Scary is it not. Especially if it moves on its own like jello pudding shaking on the plate, trembling because Bill Cosby is coming to eat it.

  6. I assume I’m safe over here in the UK…
    We’ve only just recovered from lighting bonfires and setting off fireworks to celebrate saving us from a return to catholicism (Guy Fawkes night) and so will have disposed of our Halloween pumpkins long before 5th November.

  7. I just love saying Punkin Chunkin…it makes me smile.
    Yes, it’s been a long day. I’m in the middle of NaNo–the place where sentences and coherent thoughts go to die.
    Punkin Chunkin–thank you for providing a temporary happy place 🙂

  8. Hey you #1, Glad I bought my pumpkin late in the season. It’s currently in my oven baking way so I can make XMAS empanadas for “my friends” & I’m sitting here eating the seeds I roasted with sea salt. I’m obviously one of the lucky ones who used it in a more sustainable way! I’m so smart!

  9. We didn’t have a carved pumpkin this year… in fact, it has been several years because our one an only daughter is 28 and we haven’t done it since she was little. We also do not live in a neighborhood frequented by trick-or-treaters so no need to do it for them. 😦
    I always got rid of the pumpkin within a couple of days so there were no science projects growing on the front steps. That’s just ew…. as my daughter would say.
    Thank you for the service announcement! I’m sure it helped people everywhere!! 😀

  10. Silly you. Now listen closely:
    1) let pumpkin sit out after Halloween until you get a nice white mold but not before it disintegrates.

    2) carefully place pumpkin in freezer.

    3) place back on porch thanksgiving morning to let thaw.

    4) as guests arrive in afternoon, and they scold you for still having the disgusting pumpkin on your porch, tell them you needed it and others for your homemade pumpkin pie.

    5) sit back and relax as you will never be asked to host Thanksgiving again.

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