The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Clayton and Mama's Pumpkin Trees

Preserved By Jeffrey Rowan Lockhart © 1988

Issue: May, 1988

In the summer, Grandma Lockhart tended a big garden. And you could make sure that she had at least one or more running vegetables growing along hand strung trellis.

The Kentucky Wonder pole bean was her absolute favorite. This long, slender green bean was hanging in her garden every year. She also planted running squash, cucumbers, gourds and pumpkins. She said that you should never plant gourds near squash or pumpkins because gourds were wild and would cross with them and make the squash and pumpkins not fit to eat.

Great Aunt Almoth told me a story about her brother Clayton and some special pumpkins her Mama raised. Grandma Lockhart had an idea about planting pumpkin seeds around the base of a tree and training the vines upward into the sturdy branches for support. Well, the idea turned out to be very fruitful. The vines ran like wildfire entwined into the branches of that tree and produced huge orange unblemished pumpkins hanging down in droves.

Some were harvested by standing on tiptoes and reaching overhead. The rest were picked from a ladder or by climbing onto the branches and dropping them into waiting arms. Grandma wanted to peddle these pumpkins in town to bring a little money into the household and chose Clayton for the task because he was young, eager and far from bashful. So they loaded up a cart, hooked their horses to it and sent Clayton into Spencer.

They waited and waited for his return but no Clayton. It was getting late and Grandma began to worry. She asked Burgin and John Rufus to go into Spencer and hunt for Clayton. They looked in the most likely places but could not find him. On their way by the baseball field they finally spotted the horse and pumpkin cart tied to a tree. They climbed into the seats and found him totally immersed in the ball game. Clayton loved baseball about as much as Grandma Lockhart loved to grow running vegetables.

They asked Clayton what had happened. He said he couldn't sell any pumpkins but gave some away and when he heard the bats cracking at the baseball field he very much wanted to watch the ball game. Almoth didn't tell me what happened after that but ended her story with a hard laugh and looked away in deep thought. The rest of it remains her memory.

Almoth writes in a letter about making whistles out of pumpkin vines:

"Ask John to tell you about the time he and Burgin cut the pumpkin vines to make whistles, Mama saw them through the window running around in the yard and Papa right behind them with a long switch so Effie Emma marched out in the yard and they got behind her and she asked him what the boys had done and Papa told her that they had cut the pumpkin vines so she told him to drop his switch because he was not going to touch them because he had taken the boys out and showed them how to make the whistles and he had failed to tell them not to touch the vines unless he was at home."