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Survivor Journals

Bob of If I Die Before I Wake has invited nine journallers to participate in a Cyber Survivor Adventure.

Every couple of weeks, the group will be issued a "challenge entry". The site will post a excerpt from the challenge entries, as well as the link to the complete entry found on the journaller's own journal site.

After the challenge entry is posted, the nine journallers will vote one of the writers off the site.

The "ousted" journaller will actually remain on the site, but rather than posting further challenge entries, they will act as a judge and commentator.

The first challenge entry has been issued, and can be found at the Survivor Journal website. The actual entries should be completed by
October 1, 2000.

Please take the time to visit, especially once the challenge entries are posted. There is a message board to post your thoughts/comments and also a instant poll where visitors can vote for who they would want to see kicked off the site.

The reasons behind Survivor Journals are simple.

1. To try something new.
2. Increase the interaction of the journal community.
3. The challenge.
4. Increased exposure to all journals involved.

So take a look around, explore all the journals involved.

If you would like to take part in Survivor Journals, Year Two (around Nov/Dec 2000), let Bob know!


November 9, 2000

On my drive down the valley on Monday, not only did I see the harvesting of cotton, I also passed a lot of abandoned pumpkin fields, dotted with thousands of pumpkins which would never have a jack-o-lantern face carved in them. What do they do with all those left over pumpkins? Do they just plough them under and wait for the seeds to sprout next spring? Do they mash them up and sell to the feed lot at the Harris Ranch? Idle thoughts that flit through one’s mind when driving long distances. However, seeing all those pumpkins reminds me of the memory I had intended to explore around about Halloween, but somehow got sidetracked.

We’re still in pumpkin season, so it’s still appropriate. (I can see my friend Char, who reads this journal, starting to cringe already) It was a long time ago. Char and I were young mothers. We each had five kids. Her third was the age of our first so we had stair steps from Tavie down to David. Good Catholic folks.

Every year and a half, whether we needed to or not. When you have little kids and Halloween rolls around you do all the typical stuff. You go buy (or make) costumes (my finest hour was “Diaper Man,” for two year old Thomas). And you go and buy a pumpkin. Pumpkin patches are wonderful photo opportunities. Colorful, nicely decorated. The kids pick a pumpkin. Great way to pass an afternoon.

Only Char and I could never do things the normal way. Oh we took pictures and the kids got pumpkins (all 10 of them), but she and I also looked over the field to find the biggest pumpkins we could find. Then we’d pile the 10 kids and their small pumpkins and the two of us and our huge pumpkins and we’d drive home.

Next step was the carving. This always sounds like a more fun project than it really turns out to be. Cleaning out the “guts” of a pumpkin is a disgusting task. Yeah, you can roast the seeds, but you have all that goopy stringy stuff to clean off first. The kids’ attention wanders long before the pumpkin is all cleaned out.

But eventually the pumpkins are all carved and outside haunting the neighborhood. The kids put on their costumes, go door to door and bring home obscene amounts of candy (our kids grew up before you had to be afraid of home made cookies or x-ray Snickers to make sure it’s not laced with cyanide). Mom goes through the candy and picks out the best to store for her and Halloween comes to an end. And that’s when Char and I came into our own.

I don’t remember whose idea it was the first year, but we decided we’d try making pumpkin pies with real pumpkin instead of going to the nearest store to buy a can of Libby’s finest. I’d never worked with fresh pumpkin before (which means, of course, that it must have been her idea to begin with). She taught me how to roast a pumpkin and then puree it. She was real good at making pumpkin pie filling and my specialty is pie crust, so it seemed logical that we work together producing the pies.

I can’t remember how many we made the first year. But we had a lovely time. Laughed a lot. Totally destroyed my kitchen (do I hear giggling in Perth?) and in the end had a lovely couple of pies that tasted an awful lot like the stuff I made using canned pumpkin. But that’s OK. We were earth mothers and we had slaughtered our pumpkins and produced this wonderful dessert by the sweat of our brows. Or something. I think we may have done that for two years.

The second year, Char was carrying her share of the pies out to the car and flipped one upside down on the floor of the front seat of the car. A guy passing by saw the accident and said “$1 as is.” Somehow Char managed to get it all inverted and no pumpkin spilled. Amazing.

I’m pretty sure it was the third year that we got a little out of control. Did I say "a little"? We had huge pumpkins and we decided we couldn’t waste any of the pumpkin puree, so we just kept making pies. Thirty-two of them. We were whirling dervishes in the kitchen, clouds of flour rising up into the air, the blender full of pumpkin puree, and baby Cam trying to climb into the oven. We did stop when he burned his hand. Honest.

At the end of the day, the kitchen counter and table were covered with pumpkin pies. And this was in the days before either of us had a freezer. What do you do with 32 pumpkin pies and no place to store them? We ultimately went out and gave them to neighbors and anybody else who would take them. But before we did that....

After we had finished the 32 pies and were feeling downright giddy, Char turned to me and said “I feel so silly, I’ll let you throw a pie in my face.” Such a deal! I wasn’t going to pass up that opportunity. But of course we couldn’t just have me pick up a pie and toss it in the direction of her face. No. We had to call the neighbors, get a camera crew, assemble the children and stage a chase scene through the house first. All captured in shaky 8 mm by a friend who to this day thinks the two of us were off our rockers. She was right.

The chase scene ended, we stood in front of the Meyer lemon tree and I gave her a pie in the face. It wasn’t just a Marx Bros. pie toss. The pumpkin custard was too “firm” for that. No, this was a take the pie pan in your hand, face it toward Char, and smoosh the custard around on the face. Chunks of pumpkin custard fell to the ground and the dog was thrilled. It was all over far too soon. But Char’s parting comment to me was, “You know what this means for next year, don’t you...?”

The next year, I met her at the door, wearing a rain coat and hat. We made our pies, we had a chase scene, the neighbors filmed it (larger crowd this year; our reputation was spreading). And at the end of the chase, we stood underneath the Meyer tree again, the dog looked expectantly, and I had my first pumpkin facial. Not unpleasant, by the way. Soft, pleasant smelling. You just have to figure out how to get pumpkin custard out from between your eyelashes.

So now I’d done her, she’d done me. We’d come to the end of our nonsense. But the children had other ideas. They’d watched their mothers make idiots of themselves for two years and they wanted their chance. And so the following year, we made our pumpkin pies and then also made ten individual size pies. At the end of the day we gave each child a pie and in single file they marched out to the front lawn. David was only 6 months old at the time, so I sat him on the grass and gave him his own pie. And then on the count of three they started tossing pies at each other.

At first they were kind of restrained. But then they got into it. They smeared it on each other’s faces, rubbed it on their stomachs. Someone dumped a pie on David’s head and smeared it into his hair. They had a marvelous time. I know the neighbors figured this was proof that we truly were nuts. But the kids loved it. And to this day it’s one of our favorite growing up stories.

I found after it was all over that pumpkin custard does not wash out of grass. So the remnants of the pie fight decorated our lawn for weeks to come. But it sure was fun. And somewhere there are movies, which Char lives in terror of my learning how to post on the Internet.

[ 2009 note: for the Char and me movie go here:  

and for the movie of the kids go here: ]

Now the kids are all grown, some of them are no longer with us. They don’t get together much and when they do, some of them have children of their own. I haven’t heard of any of them doing anything as stupid as Char and my pumpkin pie capers (I also remember trying to stuff two large Christmas trees and two women into a tiny car one December...) It was a time when life was simpler. Our biggest worries were where to store 32 pumpkin pies. Sometimes I miss those days.

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created 11/5/00 by Bev Sykes