Halloween’s about both the scary and the sweet

Kristi O’Harran

Kristi’s Notebook

Think of children in brightly colored mittens scampering over green fields scooping up just the right pumpkin patch gourd.

Isn’t that a lovely picture? I guess it is, but I never drove my children to a pumpkin patch to pick out a special orange ball.

My kids thought pumpkins, just like Christmas trees, came from the front of a grocery store.

In my defense, though carving the pumpkin was a slapdash affair, my kids had the best costumes on the block. I spent weeks sewing, gluing sequins, painting, motorizing and customizing tramps, witches, ghosts and aliens.

Isn’t it nice when someone has a special connection to a holiday? John Marzolf, 51, makes Halloween a fantasy-filled but nonspooky occasion for children and adults alike.

Saturday, more than 35 guests will arrive at Marzolf’s ranch near Machias. I’ll give you an idea how great a place it is: You can go right up and pet Raleigh and Gary. Those are two bulls who graze in a field dotted with a dozen cows, two dogs and a cat.

"Everybody likes everybody here," Marzolf said. "We have no use for anyone who doesn’t like anyone."

Beside the pasture you see a hillside of green and orange pumpkins of all sizes. Step around, take a closer look, and you’ll see names imbedded into each sphere, like Tyler, Paige and Hannah.

Who made the pumpkins grow with special names that look like part of the shell?

" tell the children I carve their names on a seed," Marzolf said. "I plant the seed and see if it grows."

Old cynics know that isn’t how it happens, but children are delighted to think their name sprang from a seed. Marzolf wouldn’t tell me how he gets names etched on the sides of the pumpkins like pretty carvings on Fenton bowls.

He said he doesn’t want to give away all of his secrets. He said that with a wink that reminded me of another jolly person who makes holidays shine.

When Marzolf’s son bought a house nearby, Jonc brought material from a compost pile out to his parent’s ranch. Four pumpkins grew from the heap. Little Halloween visitors that year, Riley, Jessie and Meghan, all picked a pumpkin. Marzolf noticed one had a pretty scar that grew deep in the skin of the sphere. That’s when he perfected the theme of the annual party.

He’ll make spaghetti, and Jon will cook his famous chili. Gramma Shirley gets to find her orange ball. Adult friends Rick and April have a pumpkin. A friend named Jan, 55, gets excited each year.

Next year, there will be an honored guest. The Marzolfs are expecting their first grandchild in a few days. Soon-to-be Grandpa Marzolf doesn’t know if it’s going to be a boy or a girl.

If it’s a girl, one of next year’s pumpkins will read "Hannah Grace."

By day, Marzolf is a custom meat cutter and also is a first-call attendant for a funeral home. He rents out bulls Raleigh and Gary. You can guess what that’s all about. This city girl didn’t need any more information about the bull service.

For fun, Marzolf and his wife make a couple of trips each year to see their daughter, Erin, in Oklahoma. She spent a summer volunteering in the Midwest, stayed for college and now makes her home there.

Erin received a pumpkin in the mail with her name on it.

Marzolf said it cost $16 to post.

He didn’t mind one bit.

"I do this because it makes kids happy," he said. "I haven’t grown up yet."

Marzolf said it’s important that adults do little things for children.

As wonderful as Saturday’s party will be, there is more coming up. There will be a family Thanksgiving gathering, but Christmas is really the day he loves.

One can only imagine special touches he brings to December.

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