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The Observer, Oct. 23

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With our favorite pumpkin patch over in Ferndale inexplicably shut down this year, The Observer took advantage of the cheap (well, cheaper) gas and drove Spouse and Junior up to Mayflower to try out a patch we'd heard about there. After turning off I-40, and a few minutes spent backtracking to catch a missed turn, we drove and drove and drove down roads that got increasingly rough and narrow. Gradually, the gently undulating land we'd been driving through flattened out into a wide, broad river valley, outlined by blue hills. The fields off the side of the road stood with milo and just-sprouted winter wheat. Though the day was nippy, The Observer couldn't help but roll the window down and stick out an elbow. Forgetting how we'd scurried from air-conditioned place to air-conditioned place back in August, that land made us want to chuck it all and buy a straw hat and a tractor and a pair of overalls. Maybe for the first time in our notoriously black-thumbed life, The Observer felt the stirring of some primal farmer inside us, a voice as old as the first man who realized he didn't have to follow the herds — that he could plant something, stay and tend it and watch it grow.  Call it The Song of Seed.

Literally at the end of the road stood a picture-perfect farm, complete with silver silos, a corn maze and petting zoo, and a pair of vintage John Deere tractors. We parked in a field and went in. The pumpkins were ranked on wooden pallets by size and color. While we drank a lemonade and munched on a jumbo corn dog, Junior walked into their legions and started trying to make a decision. Waxy orange pumpkins. Blue/white pumpkins, pale and round as the moon. Pumpkins too big for a man to lift.  Pumpkins with creamy pink skin and an overgrowth of troll-white warts. Green pumpkins. Blood-orange pumpkins. Yellow pumpkins. Skinny pumpkins. Fat pumpkins. Squat pumpkins. They all shone in the sun.

Eventually, Junior was able to make up his mind. We ended up leaving with several of the big orange specimens, one of the mysterious white ones, and a green gourd with a crooked handle. Our prizes are currently ensconced on The Observer's front porch, where we periodically stop to stare at them like Michelangelo looking for David trapped in a block of marble. Before long, we'll have to take knife in hand and carve — scoop out the ropy guts and the teardrop seeds. For now, though, they're just refugees from Eden, waiting to be transformed into snaggle-toothed devils.

 

Went to vote on Monday, thinking we'd save time. Stood in a line that at one point was about 50 people deep, extending out the door of the county building at the corner of Broadway and Markham. With a mother toting her baby, a young girl in shorts and furry boots, men in ties, a retiree surprised at the age variety of early voters. It took 35 or 40 minutes thanks to a small operational glitch, but only one person audibly expressed a bit of frustration, and it was, of course, worth the wait. Other polling places, we heard, were even more crowded.

Our vote cast, The Observer plans to pull the covers over our head until Nov. 4. We can't take the stress. We'll come out again on Nov. 5; here's to an early spring and a one-way ticket back to Alaska for Gov. Palin.

 

Plucky is a word that describes world traveler Linda Fordyce, who with her husband, John, has been working several years to get the Firehouse Hostel and Museum on the grounds of MacArthur Park up and running. 

Fordyce was seriously injured recently by a vehicle when the front tire on a motor scooter she was riding went flat. Her daughter, Diane Newcomb, talked to The Observer about it, since the Times had done a story about her backpacking parents and their hostelling hopes.

The Firehouse Hostel will fill the historic Craftsman-styled Firehouse No. 2, just south of the Arkansas Arts Center, with firefighting memorabilia on the first floor and bunk rooms and suites on the second. The non-profit has a 50-year lease on the property from the city.

Last year about this time Fordyce laughed that she was someone who “liked living close to the ground” but was out trying to raise $2 million.

Instead of flowers, The Observer is thinking, how about a contribution to the Firehouse Hostel? The address: P.O. Box 2753, Little Rock 72203. A website is being created: Firehousehostel.org.

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