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America First—100 Stories from Our History by  Lawton B. Evans

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HOW THE PUMPKINS SAVED A FAMILY

[260] WHEN the Moore family moved to Ohio, about a hundred years ago, they had to carry with them everything they needed. They went in a covered wagon, with all their household goods, a long supply of provisions, guns, axes, implements with which to cultivate the farm and garden, and seeds to plant. Like all other pioneers who went into the wilderness of the West, they were prepared for almost any emergency. There could be no sending back home for anything!

The Moores built a log cabin by the side of a stream, and not far from the cabins of other pioneers like themselves. Around them was the deep forest, full of game. In the rivers and lakes there was an abundance of fish. The soil was very fertile and grew anything that was planted. Their cabin had but one room, with big fireplace in which all the cooking was done. The boys slept in a loft, which they reached by a ladder from the inside.

The first winter was hard. It was cold outside, but Mr. Moore had cleaned up his land, and there was plenty of fuel; so that, when the wind [261] roared and the snow fell, the family sat about the big fire and talked of the people back East, or discussed the plans for the spring planting. After the coals had been pulled over the embers, in order to have fire in the morning, the family went to bed, and covered themselves with the heavy robes they had bought from the Indians. During the day, the boys trapped rabbits, and shot other game in the woods. So the family had plenty of meat to eat, though they had to be sparing of the meal and flour they had brought with them.

After the snow had melted, the ground was soft and ready for plowing and platting. Among the seed which Mr. Moore had brought were some pumpkin seed, and one of the boys, named Obed, was careful to plant them in a good place so that the pumpkins would flourish. He had not forgotten Hallowe'en and Thanksgiving.

The crops did marvelously well. There was plenty of wheat, and corn, and potatoes, and the way those pumpkins grew was something to be proud of! Spring and summer passed, and winter came on again. There was now an abundance of food, ample wood for the winter, and everybody was well. The Moores were as happy and prosperous a pioneer family as one could find anywhere.

The only thing that gave any fear at all was the [262] Indians. Those lurking savages had been acting badly of late. Mrs. Moore had always been kind to them, and Mr. Moore had often given them little trinkets and tobacco and medicine. There was no reason why the Moores should be afraid of their savage neighbors, but still they were, and Mr. Moore never left the house without misgivings.

On the Monday before Hallowe'en, Mr. Moore set out for the nearest village on a two days' journey, to buy some things he needed for the winter. "Take care of the mother and the children," he told the boys, Joe and Obed, "and keep a sharp lookout for the Indians." With that he mounted his horse and rode off down the trail.

Joe and Obed went into the garden, and brought in two immense pumpkins. With these they began to make jack-o'-lanterns, just as they did before they came to their new home in the West. They cut out the eyes and nose and mouth, and scooped out the inside of each pumpkin, making places for the candles. They were particular to make two as hideous heads possible, though they had no idea what they would do with them afterwards.

Hardly had they finished the lanterns, than a man came riding up to the door. "The Indians are coming! The Indians are coming! Close your [263] doors and get ready for an attack," he cried. "They killed a family down the river, and are marching this way. Give me a fresh horse, for mine is broken down."

The boys quickly handed him over one of their horses, and led his exhausted animal into their barn. They barred the door and windows, put out the lights, for it was now dark, loaded their guns, and crouched down by the fireplace to wait. "If father were only here," whispered Joe to Obed. "Never mind," answered Obed, "we will give a good account of ourselves."

The two boys heard a sound in the yard. Even though it was dark, the snow had fallen that morning, so one could see fairly well. Cautiously peering through the windows, Obed caught sight of figures moving across the yard toward the cabin.

"They are coming," he whispered. "Give me the rifle;"

Joe turned to get the gun, and his eyes fell on the two jack-o'-lanterns he and his brother had made. A great idea flashed through his mind. "It is worth trying, anyway," he said to himself. Then he seized a burning coal from the fire, and blew it into a blaze. Then he lighted two candles, and put them inside one of the pumpkins. He did the same thing with the other pumpkin.

[264] "Here, Obed," he cried, "we will scare those devils to death."

Seizing one of the lanterns, with the light gleaming hideously from the great mouth and eyes and nose, Joe threw open the blind, and held the pumpkin in the window. Obed followed his brother's example.

By this time, a dozen Indians were in the yard, making ready for the attack. Seeing the hideous monsters at the windows, and hearing a loud groaning noise which Joe and Obed made, the savages were overcome with terror. The lanterns bobbed up and down, turned this way and that, and appeared to glare furiously at the intruders. Then the two boys let forth a hideous whoop, and fired off a gun.

This was too much for the red-skins. With loud yells, they fled into the forest, and did not stop running until they were miles away. Joe and Obed never tired of telling their friends how two pumpkins saved the Moore family from destruction.


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