Note to readers: Barry Schraders DeKalb
County Life column will appear every other Tuesday.
As we get near April Fools Day I wanted to share
this prank that wasnt meant to be funny, just fun.
Recently, I received an email from a friend, Jason Bezis, way
out in Livermore, Calif. He had stumbled across an old TV news
clip online from 1987 pertaining to DeKalb County.
It seems that two skydivers decided to play catch with
a basketball-sized Jack-O-Lantern as they plummeted toward earth
over rural Hinckley. One of them dropped the pumpkin and it plunged
straight down into the home of Larry and Becky
Smaller pumpkins like these can still be useful for punkin
Farrar, tearing through the roof and ceiling of their kitchen,
splattering its gooey innards all over the room. Fortunately,
they and their children were not in the room at the time.
A call to the DeKalb County Sheriffs Office brought
then-deputy Gary Espy to their place. He has since retired and
moved to Missouri, but he recalls the incident to this day.
When we talked by phone, Espy said that it was the most
unusual call he ever handled in his 26-year career in law enforcement.
He said when he looked up at the shattered ceiling he could see
a big round hole in the roof as well. The evidence of orange
goo all over the room made him realize it was not a meteorite
that caused all the damage, but rather an earthly pumpkin.
It didnt take him long to deduce that it could have
come from the nearby sky-diving club, and he paid them a visit.
The culprits readily admitted their pumpkin toss went awry and
accepted the blame. They were charged with reckless conduct and
the court assessed the proper fine and added the costs of repairs
for the Farrars house. I wonder if the Farrar children
had Great Pumpkin nightmares like the comic character Charlie
Brown, or if they shy away from eating pumpkin pie to this day.
Anyway, the story made the national news and Dan Rather
featured it on the CBS Evening News, including an interview with
Espy and the Farrars.
This decades-old episode brings to mind the need for something
new to generate more excitement for the annual Sycamore Pumpkin
Festival. Their pumpkin displays on the courthouse lawn and parade
are still popular attractions, but what about adding some new
I am not suggesting someone drop a pumpkin through the
roof of Pumpkin Festival committee President Jerry Malmassaris
house for publicity, but rather try another pumpkin sport. I
read somewhere that a town in central Illinois uses a catapult
to launch pumpkins out into a field. Sycamore could hold its
own Punkin Chunkin competition among teams
of kids to build a homemade catapult and aim for a touchdown
toss over the Sycamore High School football field goal posts.
Or if that is too messy, just use a nearby field to vie for a
distance or accuracy prize.
Another idea comes from something told to me by Richard
Elliott (Sycamore High, Class of 1960) who travels to New Mexico
each fall to photograph the International Hot Air Balloon Festival
near Albuquerque. He said they hold a competition among the balloon
pilots who are given a target spot in an open area and they must
drop a sandbag as they float overhead; the closest one to the
target gets a big cash prize.
So, how about inviting hot air balloon enthusiasts to Sycamore
for a pumpkin toss. Maybe they could get the Goodyear blimp to
hover high overhead, capturing all the action with TV coverage
of this Punkin Plunge, as they could call it.
If he were alive today, I can imagine it would tickle Mr.
Pumpkin Wally Thurow to see people exploring new ways of
having fun with those oversized gourds.
On another subject, despite publishing a photo with my last column
showing a portion of a family photo montage that had been abandoned
in a DeKalb storage unit last year, no one has identified the
young woman pictured. If you missed it and want to take a look,
go to www.dekalbcountylife.com and click on Pictures to see
if you might know her.