Squashhouse Valley


Harvest time

Charly sat high up on his pumpkin, with his back leaning against the ten feet sawed-off stalk. From here, he could overlook the whole village, as his pumpkin was situated on a small hill. It was early fall and everyone in the village knew what that meant. Harvest time. When it was harvest time in other villages, the fruits from garden and field were stored, eaten, sold. That also happened here in the village. Potatoes just didn’t go into the cellar, because there were no cellars here. What for. When the harvest was over in the other villages and they were preparing for winter, the pumpkin village was busy. After the harvest came the construction time. It took very good tools and a lot of time to carve a good house out of a good pumpkin.

Hollowing out was tedious and time-consuming. Sawing and drilling openings in the hard outer wall of the pumpkin was hard work. But it was worth it. With good care, such a pumpkin house lasts forever. The oldest house in the village was three hundred and seventy-three years old. Of course, that house was also a pumpkin, as were all the houses in the village. The village came into being in the first place because giant pumpkins grow here. You never know how many there are in a year that grow to a large enough size to become a house.

There was one year when there were nine, all in a somewhat remote location. An independent, small settlement was formed. Mostly, however, there are only three to five pumpkins that are added in a year. Some, somewhat smaller ones, can also be used for storage if they have grown in the right place. The village council pays close attention to make sure no pumpkins grow where they are not wanted, because they would be in the way or change the village image.

Charly lived with his parents and siblings in an old pumpkin that they had inherited from his grandmother. Inherited is the wrong word, because his grandma just moved away.

“I can’t see pumpkins anymore and the mayor is getting on my pumpkin,” were her last words before she moved to New York City to spend her twilight years doing more opera, museums and urban bustle.
Charly and his parents loved to move. They loved the outdoors and his parents are self-employed. His mother is an architect and travels a lot anyway when she has a job. His father does something with internet and mostly in front of the computer.

Everyone in the village has Internet access. At least in the main village. Here on the hill, there is no power line going here, nor is there a water or sewer line. Electricity comes to Charly’s family from a water wheel in the nearby creek. So does the water. Dirty water is cleaned up at a plant, and internet and television are available through a satellite dish attached to the stalk of the pumpkin Charly was leaning against.

Susi and Johnny were coming up the hill. Lasse had already seen them as they came out of their pumpkins.
Hello, Charly, Susi called up to him. “At your favorite place, as usual.”
“I’m coming down, Charly called and jumped up.
Charly went to the flap in the pumpkin roof and ran down the two flights of stairs through the open hall in the pumpkin. He called out to his father, who was at his desk, “We’re going pumpkin picking.”
“Have fun,” the father said. “We’ll catch up with you when your mom gets back from town”. Charly dashed out the front door. The door stand, as with most pumpkin houses on warm days always open. Like the openings for the windows, the openings for the doors were sawed out of the hard shell of the pumpkin. This was done in the pumpkin village by the carpenter. In the past, he had only worked with wood. Since he lived here, pumpkin shell was his building material, at least most of the time.

All called the village Pumpkin Village in the Squashhouse Valley.

Charly could have slid down from the roof of the pumpkin, because the pumpkin house was quite flat. But he would have fallen down the last piece and that was higher than he was and therefore forbidden and much too dangerous. Stupid Michel did it once and was still in the hospital. Stupid Michel was the son of the mayor. He was like his father. Very loud and always wanted everyone to hear what he said, did and thought. This summer he didn’t notice much himself, because he was in the hospital. Charly and his friends often visited him there. There in the city from houses that were not pumpkins. Everything was straight there. The streets, the houses, the rooms. It smelled like the city and not pumpkin like here.
Today they would see  Michel again, because he was healthy again and did not want to miss the harvest of the giant pumpkin. After all, his father, the mayor would also give a long speech and Michel was also eager to get on the photo that would then appear in the newspaper and on the Internet.

Charly Susi and Johnny ran across the meadows down the hill. The sun was shining, it was warm for the early autumn. The path they were walking on was sand. There were apple trees to the left and right, but they were no longer bearing apples. In the pastures, which had no fences here, there were a few cows standing and grazing while it was not yet too cold and there was still fresh green growing. Here on this side of the river there were few pumpkin houses and they mostly stood alone or had a pumpkin shed or garage.

At the old water mill, the kids stopped. As usual. Of course, the mill where grain used to be ground into flour was also a pumpkin. Even the water paddles on the paddle wheel, which was turned by the flowing water, were fas half pumpkin shells from much smaller pumpkins. Flour had not been milled here for a long time. Now the wheel turned a generator that produced electricity. The children used to stand here by the water wheel because there were lots of fish swimming in the current in the water below. They were just swimming as fast as the water was coming towards them. They were all trout and some were really big. But they were never where the water was completely shallow but among the dense, green water plants that looked like long, bright green cushions in the water.

“Look, there’s old Ben,” Susi called out. Old Ben was a huge paddlefish. He had lived in the pond above the mill for many years. When he surfaced very rarely, you could see his huge body glistening darkly like a giant snake making an arc in the water when he resurfaced. There were also anglers from the city to catch him, but he did not fall for it and bit at no hook.
Old Ben was as much a part of the village as the mill, the meadows, the apple trees and the pumpkin houses. Children walked on and came to the wooden bridge that led across the river to the larger part of the village. They walked across and were also already at the side of the village square. Right on the corner of the square, which had no corners because there were only round pumpkin houses around it, was the general store of Susi’s parents. Here you could buy almost everything, except cars and televisions. From the outside, the pumpkin looked normal-sized, like most houses, but when you were inside, it was huge. Susi’s great-grandfather was lucky and in the back garden after many years a giant pumpkin grew longer and longer and grew together with the house. After harvesting and hollowing out the pumpkin, the carpenter only had to cut a large door and the common wall of both pumpkins. Thus, in the store of Susi’s parents, you could go into the small store in the front, which became bigger and bigger towards the back, in the second pumpkin.

For several years, the mayor tried to buy the pumpkin house. No one knew what he was going to do with it. It didn’t matter, because Susi’s parents would never move away.
There was already a lot of activity in the village square because the pumpkin that was to be harvested was right on the village square. It was the last available plot and a huge stroke of luck that it had grown just right. You couldn’t choose where a pumpkin would grow, because it was pure chance which of the seeds of the pumpkins would produce a giant pumpkin again.

The brass band was already playing and eis was a stand with cotton candy and love apples glazed with red sugar. Almost all the villagers were there and Michel also came hobbling along with his cast.
“There you are, he said. You don’t want to miss the best, do you?”
“The harvest isn’t even here yet.”
“No, because my father hasn’t made his speech yet. Here we go, they’re taking our pictures now.”
Michel limped over to the spot in front of the pumpkin that had a huge bow tied around it. The music stopped playing and the mayor spoke very loudly.
“Dear fellow citizens. We are gathered here to solemnly welcome this magnificent pumpkin into the community. He will become a magnificent house. We have waited a long time for this moment, that our village square is now closed from three sides and opens only to the river. We all know how long it took and how hard we tried. It has succeeded and there it stands now. Solemnly, I open the harvest and the start of construction.”
The mayor took a huge pair of scissors and walked with them to the bows on the pumpkin. He stopped, waited until his family with Michen stood with him. Then the photographers from the city took pictures when he cut the bow with the scissors. The mayor always smiled as he did this and pulled in his big belly.
“Carpenter Smitty, do your duty!”
The carpenter stood on top of the pumpkin with one of his employees in their carpenter costume, raised a glass and said, “May it last 500 years, what has grown here in just 2 years.” He drank and everyone in the village square also raised their glasses and drank as well. Then Smitty lifted out a large saw on top of the pumpkin and with his associate sawed off the pumpkin in front of the pumpkin plant. This was hard work because the stalk was as dense as a thick tree, only not quite as hard. The leaves of the pumpkin plant, which were the size of parking spaces for a car, bobbed with every movement of the saw. Dan was sawed off the branch and slid down the side of the gourd. The villagers applauded and the music began to play again. No more would happen to the pumpkin today, today was the ceremony. The real work would begin tomorrow, then everyone would come back in rubber boots and not, as today, in their fine Sunday clothes. Tomorrow the carpenter would cut two doors in the pumpkin, and everyone would help hollow out the pumpkin.

Charly’s parents were there now too, chatting with the neighbors. Charly, Susi and Johnny ran, around the pumpkin to watch the carpenters cut the long, thick branch that the pumpkin was on. The branch was over one hundred feet long and went across a street and through some gardens. Many were glad that it was finally coming away. At one house, the plant grew right over the house pumpkin, so the front door was blocked and the carpenter had to cut a new one in the wall of the house. But that wasn’t unusual. If you’re going to have giant pumpkins in the village, they have to have room to grow. Now that this was no longer part of the festivities, the carpenters took the chainsaws and cut up the branch in no time and loaded it onto trucks. They also disassembled the massive leaves and hauled them away. Nothing was thrown away. What the carpenter and the joiner could not use as building material, became fodder for the animals compost or came to the biogas plant of the village, which stood between two hills, somewhat remote.

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