It was almost Halloween. Each day on their way to school, Toby, Janie, Beth, Davy, and Ben passed Mr. Greevey’s farm. Just beyond the cabbages and the rows of tall corn they would stop. Here big green pumpkin leaves covered the ground like a rumpled blanket. Nestled among them—some still streaked with green—were dozens and dozens of pumpkins. There were big ones and small ones, fat ones and tall ones. Each one was just right for a jack-o’-lantern.
Every morning Toby looked to see if frost had touched the pumpkin leaves. When it did, Mr. Greevey would let each child choose a pumpkin for his very own. Then Mr. Greevey would haul the rest of the colorful vegetables to market.
“I’m going to pick a tall one this year,” Toby said.
“I want a little fat one,” said Janie.
“I want one this big,” Beth said, making a circle with her arms. “After Halloween, Mother will make it into pumpkin pies.”
“Mmmmm, pies!” Davy sighed.
Ben didn’t say anything. He just stood there looking at the pumpkins.
One morning when their breath hung like little puffs of chimney smoke on the chilly air, the children stopped again at the pumpkin patch. It had happened! The pumpkin leaves were shriveled and black on the ropy vines. They ran all the way to school to tell the other children.
When school let out that afternoon, Toby, Beth, Janie, Davy, and Ben hurried back to the pumpkin patch. Mr. Greevey would be waiting there to call out, “Tell all the children to come and choose their pumpkins tomorrow!”
But when they reached the patch, not one of the pumpkins had been picked, and Mr. Greevey was nowhere in sight.
“Maybe tomorrow,” Toby said.
“Yes, maybe tomorrow,” the others agreed hopefully.
However, Mr. Greevey wasn’t there the next day or the next or the one after that.
“Halloween’s almost here,” said Davy.
“Do you think Mr. Greevey’s forgotten?” asked Janie with a worried frown.
“Mr. Greevey grows the pumpkins especially for Halloween,” said Beth. “Why would he forget?”
“Let’s go find out,” said Toby.
“Who’s going to knock on the door?” Davy whispered when they reached the house.
“I will,” Toby said, marching up onto the porch. He knew it wasn’t polite to ask for things, but Halloween was getting awfully close.
Mrs. Greevey opened the door. “Why, children, how nice to see you,” she said.
“We came—” Toby began.
“The pumpkins are ripe!” Davy blurted out.
“It’s almost Halloween,” Janie said shyly.
“My goodness!” Mrs. Greevey exclaimed. “So it is. I’ve been so busy taking care of Mr. Greevey that I hadn’t noticed.” She smiled. “And of course all of you want to choose your jack-o’-lanterns.”
They nodded silently.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to do it by yourselves this year. Mr. Greevey is much too sick to come to the patch.”
“Will he be better soon?” Toby asked.
Mrs. Greevey nodded. “In a week or two he’ll be just fine. Tell the other children to come and choose their jack-o’-lanterns too.”
“We will. Thank you,” said Toby.
The five children raced each other to the pumpkin patch.
“Choosing a pumpkin isn’t much fun without Mr. Greevey,” Janie said. She stepped carefully over the stiff, prickly vines. “He always helps me find just the right one.”
“Who will take the rest of the pumpkins to the market?” Davy asked, stopping to examine a fat round one.
They all stopped and looked at each other.
“Could we take them to the market for Mr. Greevey?” Toby asked.
“That’s a wonderful idea!” cried Janie. “Mr. Greevey has always been so nice to us. It’ll be fun to do something nice for him.”
“How can we get the pumpkins there?” asked Beth. “None of us is old enough to drive Mr. Greevey’s truck.”
“I know how we can do it,” Ben said.
They all turned to look at him. Ben never spoke unless he had something important to say. “We can haul them in my dad’s hay wagon. I know how to drive the horses. I’m sure Dad will let us use it.”
“Hurray!” Toby exclaimed. “Tomorrow is Saturday. We can get some of the kids at school to help.”
Early the next morning the children were at the pumpkin patch. “Do you think we should choose our pumpkins now?” Janie asked.
“Mr. Greevey will be disappointed if we don’t,” said Toby.
Everyone picked the pumpkin he liked best and set it in a row along the fence. Then they started to work.
“The big ones are too heavy to carry,” Beth said.
“You have to roll them,” Toby explained, turning a big pumpkin on its side. He carefully rolled it to where Ben and a bigger boy were loading the wagon.
The load of pumpkins grew higher. At last only the biggest pumpkin was left in the patch.
“We’ll never get that one on the wagon,” said Davy.
“Mr. Greevey usually saves the very biggest pumpkin for its seeds anyway,” Toby said. “Let’s leave it here until we come back.”
Everyone climbed aboard the wagon. Some sat on top of the pumpkins. Others wiggled down between them.
“Giddap!” Ben called. The big draft horses strained against the harness as the wagon turned out onto the highway. Soon horns began to blow. Toby looked back at the long line of cars.
A patrol car passed the wagon and stopped. “You’ll have to get this wagon off the highway,” the officer told them. “You’re blocking traffic.”
“But we’re taking these pumpkins to the market,” explained Davy.
“I’m sorry, but you’ll have to find another way,” said the officer. “Now let these cars pass.”
Ben turned the horses off the highway and stopped.
“Now what’ll we do?” Beth wailed.
Toby thought for a minute. “I know! Across this meadow is a dirt road that goes along the river to the other side of town. We can use that.”
“Giddap!” Ben shouted.
It was more fun riding on the river road than the highway. The trees along the dirt road were splashed with reds and golds and yellows. At last Ben stopped the wagon behind Mr. Colby’s market.
“I’m mighty glad to see you,” Mr. Colby said. “Everyone has been asking for Mr. Greevey’s pumpkins.”
The wagon was soon unloaded, and the children rode back to the farm.
“Now for the biggest pumpkin,” said Toby. “Listen.” He explained his plan.
“That’s a great idea!” the others all shouted. Everyone took turns helping to roll the huge pumpkin.
“It must weigh more than a hundred pounds,” said Davy.
Quietly they rolled the pumpkin up onto Mr. Greevey’s front porch. Toby slipped the check from Mr. Colby under the door, and they hurried away.
When Halloween came, there were jack-o’-lanterns everywhere. There were fierce ones and silly ones, funny ones and sad ones. But the biggest, happiest jack-o’-lantern was the one on Mr. Greevey’s front porch, smiling at everyone who passed by.