Jewish World Review April 14, 2003 / 12 Nisan, 5763

David Grimes

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Consumer Reports

When good gourds go bad | As if the war in Iraq, the tanking economy and skyrocketing gas prices were not enough to worry about, it appears gourds are out to kill us.

A Russian man is suing a seed company after he was knocked unconscious by a giant pumpkin he was (inexplicably) growing on his balcony.

Nikolay Salakhov, who lives near Moscow, claims the pumpkin-seed packet he purchased promised "decorative vegetables the size of a pear." Instead, the plants produced pumpkins weighing almost 40 pounds, one of which fell on his head and knocked him out while he was sitting on his balcony. (Yes, yes, I realize that pumpkins are fruits, not vegetables. I did not write the copy on the back of the seed packet, though I might be swayed if the money were right.)

Like so many of the bizarre stories that I write about, this one is infuriatingly short on details. For example, at what point did Mr. Salakhov realize that the pear-size pumpkins he had been expecting were actually mutant fruits/vegetables the size of a beach ball? Did he ever stop to think that maybe an apartment balcony was not the appropriate place to raise pumpkins weighing as much a sack of concrete? And why, especially, did he think it would be a good idea to sit beneath his sack-of-concrete plant while admiring the view, charming or not-so-charming as it may be? Can we safely assume that copious amounts of vodka were involved in this accident?

While I have nothing against pumpkins per se (overlooking the yearly high-speed trip to the emergency room after running a boning knife through my hand while carving the Halloween jack-o'-lantern), they would not be my first choice of fruits/vegetables to grow on my balcony, assuming I had a balcony, which I don't. I would be thinking along the lines of something far less lethal, like maybe cherry tomatoes, a particularly benign variety of herb or a small decorative plant that would have the decency to shrivel and die within hours after planting.

One has to wonder how many other Russian citizens are sitting on their balconies at this moment, sipping a little Stoly, inhaling the fragrant bus fumes from Red Square, oblivious to the orange, obloid terror swinging gently overhead. War is hell, to be sure, but death by pumpkin holds no honor. There are no posthumous medals presented to the grieving family (though something in the shape of a pie might be a possibility) and it is not a story that you would want to hear for fear of laughing and making the family feel worse than it already does.

So, in sum, my suggestion is that the Russian government forget about Chechnya and address the far more serious problem of homicidal gourds. After all, when your head is stuck in a pumpkin, no one can hear you scream.

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JWR contributor David Grimes is a columnist for The Sarasota Herald Tribune. Comment by clicking here.


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