You wanna hear the story of the time I met the Pumpkin Man, again? Are you sure? I just told you that one last night! Well, okay. Well, fine. Whatever you want, little lady.

I was down at the beach, right where you was swimmin’ earlier today. This was way long ago, well before your momma was born. I was skippin’ stones on the lake, sending ’em towards the sunset with a satisfyin’ sorta song. “Kssh-kssh-kssh-ploop,” went the rocks. “Klash-kssh-kssh-ksh-ksh-blop,” they would sing when I really put my wrist in ’em. My nice little half-whistled melody screeched to a stop, though, when I heard a yell so loud it made me just about jump out my skin.

I dropped the rock in my hand, forgotten with a clinkety-clack, and turned around expectin’ someone right there behind me. But it was just an awful “HALLOOOOOGHHH” echoing across the water, followed by a loud squishy sound. I didn’t see nobody there on the beach with me.

But then I noticed, way up on the hill, a-way up the path by the big old oak tree, stood a man. Or — well — it looked like a man anyway. With some kinda crazy hat on, just hollerin’ his head off to beat the band.

I waved and tried to yell back, “What’s wrong?” but he wouldn’t stop goin’ “HOOOOLLLOOOOOUGGHH!” So I figgered, better go see what’s wrong with this feller. I clambered up the steppin’ stones, couldn’t see cuz I ain’t wantin’ to fall, so’s his, uhh, appearance really done shocked me at the top.

I looked up, outta breath, and there was the pumpkin man. The dude had a giant jack-o-lantern on his head! I mean, it was bigger’n a beach ball. He’s standing there staring at me with black triangle eyes, and his hands on the sides of his pumpkin-y cheeks, and I’m just starin’ with my jaw on the ground. Catchin’ flies.

Before I could think to offer to help him get the dang pumpkin off his head, he lets out a hollerin “HOOO” and grabs the pumpkin up — but he’s got no neck! He’s got no head! He’s hollerin still somehow, and I swear to you that pumpkin mouth was openin’ wide as he bashed it to the ground with a giant ker-SPLUT.

I swear to you, no lie, he had no head. No neck! But when I looked down at the ground in the piles of smashed pumpkin-parts all around, and then I looked back up at him, his dang pumpkin head was right back on his shoulders!

I blinked a few times. I rubbed my eyes. And as I did, he yelled “HOOOO” louder’n anything I heard in my life. He lifted that pumpkin up in the air again, and brung it crashin’ down on the grass, ka-whump, and again, when I blinked, his head came back. His pumpkin head, I mean.

“Look, mister pumpkin man,” I says, “I don’t rightly know what’s goin’ on here.”

He yelled “HOOO” and hurled his head on the ground again, ka-plort, and by then I started to get better at ignorin’ his yellin’. “Look, let me try to help you there, mister.”

So’s I stepped towards him, holding a hand out, and he froze. It was quiet for a moment, like the wind died down to listen in. I stepped again, and he put his hands to his giant orange head. “Now look,” I said, which was all I could get out ‘afore he whipped the big pumpkin in my general direction! I ducked to the side, and it whizzed by me, tumblin’ in broken pieces down the stepping stones. Blat-bup-bup.

I don’t know why I wasn’t scared at that point, but I was just gettin’ angry about all these dang giant pumpkin parts all over my property. So I marched towards him, returnin’ his “HOOOO”, and when he threw his head at me again, I was ready. I caught the damn thing.

No, I don’t know what I was thinkin’. But I tell you what, I stopped thinkin’ pretty quick as soon as those triangle eyes squinted up at me, and the pumpkin winked.

I swear it, the sun set over the lake fast as I stood there holding that pumpkin. And then in the new darkness it started talkin’. “Put me on,” it said. “Put me on your head! It’ll be fuuuuuun,” it said. And that’s when I screamed “HOOOOOO” myself, and I threw that accursed thing to the ground, splat!, and I started runnin’ for the barn to get my dang shotgun.

Clearly this was a supernatural situation, but I wasn’t really in my right mind. And when I got my gun and I got out the barn, I heard only one more earth-shattering cry of “HOOOO” as I walked trepidatiously back down through the field towards the lake.

When I got to the old oak tree, the pumpkin man was nowhere to be found. But the ground was littered with pumpkin pieces and a whole bunch of crows were picking at ’em, eyein’ me.

Anyway, that’s why we don’t ever carve pumpkins after the harvest here on the farm no more.

Sleep tight! I’ll be downstairs, watchin’ out for that mean old pumpkin man, and if you hear a “HOOO” off in the distance, well, gorgeous… that’s probably just an owl.