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Pumpkin blaster

Started: 2020-11-22 13:35:35

Submitted: 2020-11-22 15:31:22

Visibility: World-readable

In which the intrepid narrator visits a pumpkin patch and fires pumpkin blasters

Kiesa's parents drove down to visit us for a weekend in October, and on the day they departed we looked around to find some seasonally-appropriate outdoor activity for our intergenerational family gathering. (This was the middle of October, which is now an obvious low point in the COVID-19 pandemic, back when we were figuring out how to re-open things rather than re-close them.) We ended up at Spina Farms Pumpkin Patch, south of San Jose, somewhere vaguely between San Jose and Gilroy, with Loma Prieta (the mountain) clearly visible to the west as the highest point in the Santa Cruz Mountains, its rounded top festooned with antennas.

Calvin fires a pumpkin blaster
Calvin fires a pumpkin blaster

There were a bunch of pumpkin patches around the Bay Area, but this particular one advertised "pumpkin blasters". As soon as we walked through the gate and figured out where everything was, we headed to the pumpkin blaster station, towards the back of the field. It featured a firing range carved out of a corn field with various targets, including an ancient pickup truck, a bell hanging from a post, and a spinner connected to two small targets. The pumpkin blasters were a pair of air cannons under camouflage netting facing the firing range, with a long line of people snaking through the field leading into the pumpkin blasters, where everyone tried to figure out the right balance between leaving the proper distance between one's neighbors while still maintaining one's place in line. (Everyone was wearing masks, but not everyone — including the group immediately ahead of us in line — had properly-fitted masks that actually covered their noses.)

Pumpkin blaster range
Pumpkin blaster range

After a half-hour wait we made it to the front of the line and exchanged our tickets for a seat in front of the pumpkin blaster. Each ticket gave us three pumpkins to fire, and if we hit something we got another pumpkin. Each pumpkin was about three inches in diameter; I saw people sorting the pumpkins by size using a template built out of a piece of plywood with a three-inch hole cut in it. Pumpkins that fit in the hole went in one pile; those that didn't went in another pile.

Calvin aims a pumpkin blaster
Calvin aims a pumpkin blaster

Calvin went first, pulling the lever to drop the pumpkin into the breech, aiming the pumpkin blaster down-range, and hitting the trigger to fire the cannon. The muzzle of the cannon had an aiming cross-hair, but given the uncertain aerodynamics of the small pumpkins, its efficacy was more theoretical than actual. The cannon gave a satisfying whump when fired, and the pumpkin shot out of the muzzle into the range. (I did quiz Calvin about the correct angle to fire when one wants maximum range, and he gave the correct answer. The blaster had a limited range of motion, but at maximum elevation (maybe 30°) the pumpkin projectile easily cleared the 100-meter range and fell into the stalks of corn on the opposite end.)

Kiesa helps Julian fire a pumpkin blaster
Kiesa helps Julian fire a pumpkin blaster

Julian went second, with Kiesa's help, firing the pumpkins down the range in the general direction of the golden hillside on the opposite side of the valley.

Jaeger fires a pumpkin blaster
Jaeger fires a pumpkin blaster

I went last, and managed to hit the post holding the bell (giving me a bonus pumpkin to fire), but I didn't actually manage to hit the bell itself.

And then we were done with the pumpkin blasters. We got shaved ice for a snack, then Julian rode the little pumpkin train, pulled by a shiny new tractor through the field.

Pumpkin ride
Pumpkin ride

Our final stop was to pick up our own pumpkins for Halloween. (Calvin and Julian decorated theirs on Halloween.) The farm had a large variety of pumpkins, in various shapes and sizes and colors.

Julian chooses a pumpkin
Julian chooses a pumpkin

I found a weird pumpkin covered in blobby growths and selected it for myself, though I didn't end up carving it. Calvin and Julian picked pumpkins for themselves, and we headed to check-out with our pumpkins stacked in a wheelbarrow.

Calvin, Julian, and Kiesa carry pumpkins in a wheelbarrow
Calvin, Julian, and Kiesa carry pumpkins in a wheelbarrow

We headed back towards home, with a trunk full of pumpkins after our turn firing pumpkin blasters.

Field of pumpkins
Field of pumpkins
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