THE WORLD ACCORDING TO HOOTER MCCORMICK -- SPOOKY VENTURES

by: Wes Ishmael

There was a man named 全tingy Jack' whose only redeeming quality was that he understood just how no-count he was. So, he tricked the devil into promising to never accept his soul into the flames of Hell.

Only problem was that when 全tingy Jack' died, there was no way he could trick St. Peter into letting him through the Pearly Gates into Heaven.

So, 全tingy Jack' wanders between worlds, lighting his way with a hollowed out turnip for a candle: his Jack 前 Lantern.

That's more or less what Hooter made of the research he undertook to answer the questions he knew he'd receive in Sunday School class. The next Sunday would be the first time his class and the rest of Apache Flats would have the chance to see and bless the local churches' first Pumpkin Patch.

When the church matrons approached Hooter and the boys with he notion for a fundraiser, Hooter was lukewarm at best. Though Floydada, Texas葉he pumpkin capital of the U.S.謡as located just a couple of counties over, Hooter knew nothing about the orange orbs other than the sound they made when dropped from certain heights. In fact, he could never understand the fuss when the local paper recounted the annual pilgrimage folks made to Floydada from all points on the compass to be part of the town's festivities. It was like folks taking for granted the mountains or ocean they see every day.

Hooter perked up, though, when a buddy on the other side of Floyd County, a veteran punkin' patcher explained, 的n some ways, it's a whole lot like stocker cattle. It's a margin business, except you're not worried about adding any pounds to them, so there's no cost for that. Freight can kill you if you're not careful. More than anything, if you get out-traded on the front end, then you can't ever dig yourself out of the hole. But, there aren't any pulls or any deads.

Hooter was intrigued. 釘ut there has to be some spoilage.

典hat's the best part, his friend told him. 鄭ny that are damaged, spoil or just don't sell still have plenty of salvage value. We have one of those punkin' chunkin' contests on November 1. Folks will pay more to smash them than to own them. Any left over from that go into pies that the ladies sell for Thanksgiving.

The model made sense.

Seeds of Controversy

典hose are real punkins, not Wal-Mart ones, said Maria Gonzalez, her eyes wide at what she'd seen on her way in to Sunday School class.

添es Ma'm, home grown over in Floyd County, the best there is, Hooter said. 展hat do the rest of you think of our first pumpkin patch?

溺y Aunt Ruby says only Godless heathens and peacocks celebrate Halloween, Casey Jacobs said in a voice too solemn for his six years.

的 think you might mean heathens and Pagans, Hooter replied with a grin.

Jeremy Womack, about the same age, was glaring at Casey. 的 think you're aunt must be a Godless Heathenor else a peacock.

The class laughed, of course. Hooter wanted to but said, 笛eremy, we don't talk that way in here. I know you were only joking, but apologize to Casey.

的 wasn't joking, but I'll apologize, Jeremy said. And he did.

鄭ctually, Casey, the name Halloween comes from a word in the Old English language. That word is Hallows, which means sacred or holy. The early Christian church began celebrating All Hallows Eve, or the night of the holy ones. They celebrated it the night before All Saints Day. That happened to be at the same time that Pagans蓉n- churched people幼elebrated the fall harvest.

Hooter was proud he remembered some of the history he'd plumbed over the years in order to answer previous Sunday School classes. He didn't hold much hope that Casey would accept the explanation, though. Hooter and Casey's Aunt Ruby葉he former Ruby Rathburn謡ent way back as classmates through grade school. Ruby was one of those people who could make a wreck of any kind seem cheerful.

鉄o, what do punkins have to do with salvation? Casey had asked.

Hooter's first thought was to tell him what Aunt Pinky told him when he was little, that it started out as a way to scare off looting Yankees. There still wasn't any way to put a positive spin on that ongoing nightmare, though, so he settled for, 撤umpkins don't have anything to do with salvation, at least not directly, but that's a good question. I suppose that harvest festival might have come to be recognized as a time for new seasons and re-birth. I'll have to study up on it and tell you next week.

What Haunts us Most

In the meantime, Hooter and the boys had been charged with judging duties for the pumpkin carving contest designed to draw more interest to the venture. They were comparing notes at Lonnie's feed store when Bobby Hayes from Wildcat Feeders blew in.

笛ust need some hardware, he said, nodding to the group. 哲o time to chat.

徹.K. We've got winners picked for all of the categories except the scariest pumpkin. What do you boys think? Peetie asked. As always, want to or not, he'd been elected chairman.

的've got to hand it to Delmar, said Cousin Charlie. 典he one of his is a work of art, an Iowa corn field. Can't think of much scarier than that.

添ou've got a point, Lonnie said. 釘ut how about those two from the Smith twins, one of Obama and one of Romney.

添eah, but who do you call the winner? Hooter wondered.

鄭nd, we're trying to draw interest, not alienate anybody, Peetie said. 添ou never can tell for sure how folks lean. That's why you get to vote in private, after all.

Peetie though a moment longer: 哲ahhh, we can't risk it, but I have to say it has always seemed to me that Halloween comes a few days too soon. Seems like it would be more appropriate if it happened the night before Election Day.

The boys rustled back and forth through their notes.

滴ow about that PETA pumpkin from Eunice McClintock? asked Izzy.

典hat's a dandy, but I hate to give those folks any press, even bad press, Hooter said.

鄭nd, I suppose it goes without saying that your Aunt Pinky and Nelda's entries cancel each other out? Lonnie said to Hooter. His aunt and her longstanding nemesis had each carved a pumpkin depicting the other one.

添ep, without saying, Hooter said.

的 vote for Delmar's corn field, Charlie said. The others agreed.

Bobby Hayes had gathered the nuts and bolts he needed. He'd only caught enough of the conversation to surmise that it involved kids and Halloween.

添ou want to scare 粗m, he growled. 笛ust show them a closeout for anytime this summer and how much ain't left that they have to come up with to reload and play again. That'll curdle your gizzard.







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