Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's the Great Pumpkin (Patch)

There are places which sell pumpkins and then there are pumpkin patches. The latter is the former, but the former is not necessarily the latter. I will never confuse the two again.

Over the weekend, I made the mistake of calling a parking lot pumpkin vender a "pumpkin patch" in front of a person who grew up in Half Moon Bay. This did not go over well. For those of you unfamiliar with Half Moon Bay, it is a tiny coastal town with sweeping views, an agricultural history, and a mostly squash-based economy. They take their pumpkins extremely seriously out there. Which is why I ended up having this conversation:

"That thing there is not a pumpkin patch."

"Of course it is. Look, there are some pumpkins and a scarecrow and..."

"A bounce house! Self-respecting pumpkin patches do not have bounce houses. That is a dirty parking lot scattered with a handful of hay and corn husks masquerading as a pumpkin patch. That... is a travesty."

That "travesty" resulted in me being forced out to HMB this weekend. Fun fact about Highway 92: the distance between I-280 and Half Moon Bay is 6 miles. Normally, this drive takes 15 minutes. In October, it takes two excruciatingly long hours. Why? Pumpkin pilgrims.

We are the West Coast's version of the New England Leafer. Like a plague of locusts, we descend upon rural areas to see what the seasons look like and admire the bounty they produce. We also destroy any chance of those towns functioning in a normal fashion. For the inconvenience we cause (and for the fact that they don't show their naked annoyance for our presence), we leave behind considerable amounts of money thereby assuring that they'll be available next year for us to disrupt them again.

Finally arriving to the pumpkin patch, I was in serious need of de-grumping. Normally this requires a delicate mixture of caffeine and absolute silence. Neither were to be found. What they did have were goats. You cannot be upset while looking at the horrendously cute faces and weird square pupil eyes of goats. Unless of course the cute faced/square-pupil animal is in the process of eating the hem of your shirt. Seeing as that was happening to someone who was not me, all my grumpiness evaporated like magic as I laughed heartily at this adorable vandalism.

My friend was right. A true pumpkin patch is an impressive, multi-acre affair. Not only did they have a corn field filled with all varieties of pumpkins to choose from, they also had a petting zoo, a haunted house, a skunk train, tractor rides, a hay maze, and medieval sword fighting (I don't really understand the connection on that one either). Oh, and there was a giant steel gorilla presiding over the whole place for some reason (see picture above).

I won't lie, I was boyishly excited about the hay maze. As a child, I spent a lot of time drawing squiggly lines through maze books. I'd like to say that it allowed me to expertly navigate the thing. It did not. Within the first three turns, we were hopelessly lost. We easily spent 45 minutes going back and forth trying to find our way out. It would appear that Half Moon Bay also takes its labyrinths serious.

To prove my point, inside the maze was a Minotaur. If you know your mythology, the Minotaur was the last thing you would want to see if you were in a labyrinth. In fact, if you met the Minotaur, it was the last thing you would see. Happily, this Minotaur doled out golden pumpkins to those who found him instead of walloping death blows.

Covered in hay, sun burnt, and with the smell of goat stuck in my nose, I had to concede my friend's point. In the same way that Orange County and Los Angeles should never be used interchangeably (and if you've ever done so in front of someone who lives in one or the other, you know the result of that), neither should a pumpkin patch be lumped in with the parking lot pumpkin sellers. One is an event, the other is a place of purchase. That being said, sometimes you don't want to drive for two hours to buy a gourd.
posted by jw