Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Gourd Jamboree

Scandal rocked the Midwest Gourd Society's Harvest Jamboree. The Fall event is normally a joyful time when gourders (that's what we call ourselves) get together to share their wares and show off year-long efforts at beetle-plucking, pollinating, and general tilling of the soil. This is not a group afraid to get their hands dirty or forgo gratification if it means harvesting a champion gourd or two. Weldon Neebles makes the extreme sacrifice and eschews dating during the pollinating season. He says it's like when prizefighters aren't allowed to have sex before a match. And who can argue with his techniques when year after year he takes home the Blue Ribbon in the Musical Gourd Competition, and as a bonus, serenades the club with his dipper-gourd flute. This year's tune, "It Ain't Me Babe," was especially rousing, causing several gourders to get jiggy and spill their beverages.

Like any industrious gourder, I spend many a summer night in my garden, meticulously distributing pollen to a closely-guarded crop of Lagenaria gourds. The flowers of this particular species open at night, and being a conscientious gardener, I do everything possible to ensure the completion of the pollination process. I've endured many taunts from neighborhood busy-bodies like Pat Humpel who stays up late, peeking out her curtains to watch me going from flower to flower with a flashlight and a Q-tip, transferring pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers. Sometimes, after a successful pollination, I turn towards her house and shout, "Another champion's on it's way!" and her curtains snap shut, but not before she calls out, "Fruitcake!"

Certified judges, who have completed the Gourd Appreciation Seminar in Griggsville, Illinois, have the responsibility of handing out awards in the following categories:

--Best birdhouse gourd.
--Swimsuit competition.
--The gourd that most resembles Ed Asner.
--Most musical gourd.
--Best gourd hat.
--Celebrity look-a-like gourd.
--Most utilitarian gourd.

The troublesome scandal brewed in the Celebrity Look-Alike competition when Lucille Erks snapped up a Blue Ribbon for her William Shatner gourd. Later in the day, Lucille was stripped of her ribbon when close scrutiny by another contestant (the finger-pointing was unnecessary; I don't make the rules) revealed the same gourd won in a previous year in the Ed Asner division. Lucille initially threw a fit but broke into a fake crying jag when article 3 section 17 of The Midwest Gourd Society By Laws was read out loud to her. It states that "No gourd, however re-decorated, may be used twice for the purpose of competition. A gourd, once submitted for competition, must be retired from said contest and used for display purposes only." Nobody was fooled by her spectacle of phony tears, especially me.

My entry in the celebrity gourd competition was a tribute to the Ronnettes, a trio of pear-shaped gourds decorated like each Ronnette: Ronnie, Estelle, and Nedra, only Estelle kept leaning over. Lucille Erks, a sore looser if there ever was one, pointed at them and said, "Those are too chubby to be the Ronnettes, they're like the Ronnettes with big asses, and that one there, she can't stand up straight; she's drunk. You should have called them The Three Big-Ass Stooges." Because of Lucille's weaselry, my second place ribbon was moved to first, and upon transferring the ribbon, Lucille gritted her teeth and vowed to sully my character in the next issue of the Gourd Newsletter.

As Seed Acquisition Manager, it's incumbent on me to obtain samples of seed from every winning contestant. The seeds are labeled and filed in the Gourd Society's seed bank (a corner of my basement, behind the snow globe collection). A great many of the seeds are from Susan Topping's Peruvian gourds. She wins every year in the Utilitarian Gourd Competition. Normally, the gourds in this category are helpful gourds that perform a useful function like a pencil holder or bowl. But Susan's gourds, cylindrical and rather plain, about ten inches long and undecorated, receive high accolades from the women attending the Jamboree. There's always a buzz around her table, and her stock is in great demand, and her seeds command a pretty good price. Her creations are called "A Girl's Best Friend," and honestly, I don't understand the attraction but am required to collect the seeds every year and draw an accompanying illustration for identification purposes.

The nice thing about gourders is their willingness to share their growing tips. Susan says part of her secret is to grow her "Girl's Best Friends" on a trellis, insuring a smooth, unblemished appearance. "A Girl's Best Friend never touches the ground" is her motto. Though I remain puzzled by the attraction of such an unremarkable gourd, next year I'm going to give the trellis strategy a try. I'm shooting for growing The Dave Clark Five, and it'd be nice if they stood erect without falling over. After all, who doesn't like a little buzz around their table.