The Guardians of the Patch

Harvest in The Upper Meadows is the Pillow Whimbles' favorite time of year. The fall solstice marks not only the lengthening of nights and cooler days but also the annual Pillow Whimble Pumpkin Contest.

Lumenesians from all the colonies come during the week before the contest to admire the many Pillow Whimble pumpkin patches. They walk carefully between one row and another looking for both the largest and smallest pumpkin.

Only one of each, smallest and largest, will win the prize. It's anyone's guess which will indeed win until the judged choices are measured and weighed on October 31st. Then and only then are the two most perfect known throughout the land.

Tension fills the late October air, inviting growing competition. As a result, it is not at all uncommon for thievery to occur in one or another of the pumpkin patches in the final days before the great event.

Years ago, certain designated Pillow Whimbles began dressing as pumpkins. In this disguise they became known as Whumpkins. This name blends Whimble and Pumpkin.  Whumpkins are also know as "Guardians of the Patch."

This year Whumpkin Devon is keeping the vigil in his kitchen garden. Tonight I've joined him and arranged myself, broom at the ready, on the tippy top of the nearby Pillow Whimble's Cottage. Devon is in perfect camo, sporting a stunning pumpkin staff with which to swiftly inflict a blow on any intruder. For some time we've been listening intently for any telltale sign - the crunching of fallen leaves, a snap of dead branches.

Suddenly, the ground near me slithers. The earth is moving like a miniature tidal wave.

What could it be?

"Did you hear that scratching noise, Agatha?" questioned Devon from his hiding place below me.

I didn't answer Devon but, rather, slid quickly off the roof. We tiptoed toward the moving earth. "What do you make of this, Agatha?" Devon whispered to me. I could tell he was panicky.

I placed a finger to my lips and motioned for him to hide with me behind a blueberry bush.

A tiny head emerged above the soil - the head of a young Tunneler. The mischievous fellow carried a flashlight to better select the choicest pumpkin. He slunk along until he discovered the smallest most perfect one in Devon's patch.

We had followed and when he reached out with his wee taloned fingers to pluck from the forbidden vine, we both pounced. Devon's staff fairly stunned the poor creature. He was lucky I kept my broom to myself.

"What is your name and just what do you think you're doing?" I asked in my most gravelly voice.

The little one shook from his hat to his feet. "I'm Rupert, son of Remi. I was to snatch the smallest most perfect pumpkin for your neighbor, your cousin Darcy. He said he would give our Tunneler clan vegetables and fruit for my efforts. You know we don't have any gardens and only forage for our harvest foods."

"Well, now, Rupert," responded Devon, "My brothers, Dillon and Delaney, will be happy to have you share our garden bounty. It would please us very much if you would help us harvest our produce and then take enough to feed yourselves. All you have to do is ask."

"I'm so sorry, Master Devon. I think we are too proud to ask for favors. But, if you would let us harvest for you in return for a little of its goodness, we would be ever so pleased. I know what I've been up to is very wrong," the Tunneler concluded, looking down.

I nodded my head, I did, but felt awfully sorry for that little one. So I was happy when Devon continued, "Now that the matter is settled, come inside with both Agatha and myself. I've just baked the best pumpkin pie ever and would love to share it with you."

Rupert jumped up and down, face aglow. It made me jump for joy too. "Pumpkin pie. I love pumpkin pie. You are the most generous Pillow Whimble ever. I promise never to raid your garden ever ever again. That's a pinky paw Tunneler´┐╝ promise."

As we three walked up the cottage lane, I picked another wee pumpkin, handed it to Rupert, saying, "I'm so proud of you. Look what you've learned under this harvest moon!"

(la fin from The Upper Meadows - Caelumen)