My brother, the pumpkin runner?

Saturday, November 18th, 2017 at 7:50 am

It didn’t take long, when reading Marsha Diane Arnold’s The Pumpkin Runner, to find parallels between her main character and my brother Josh.

First, there’s the name. “Nearly all the sheep ranchers in Blue Gum Valley rode horses or drove jeeps to check on their sheep. But Joshua Summerhayes…”

Then there’s the running. “But Joshua Summerhayes liked to run…” Yep, that’d be Josh.

Finally, there’s Joshua’s penchant for eating raw pumpkin.

Not that my brother Josh is crazy about raw pumpkin (at least, I don’t think he is). But when I read:

“That was the year his family planted a pumpkin patch behind their clapboard ranch house, where the sun sparkled through the eucalyptus trees near Blue Gum Creek.

When the pumpkins had grown as round as a wombat’s belly, young Joshua stopped by to enjoy a golden slice.”

When I read that passage (from the second and third paragraphs of the story), I remembered my brother Joshua’s love for raw green beans. Now, don’t get me wrong. We all loved to munch on the raw green beans while we spent countless hours stemming for mom to can. But Josh took it to a whole ‘nother level. We teased that Josh ate more than went into his bowl to be canned.

The Pumpkin Runner goes on from there, of course. It tells the story of young Joshua Summerhayes, young no longer. At 60 years old, he’s still running powered by the pumpkins in the patch out back. But when a newspaper announces a run from Melbourne to Sydney (just 900 km or ~560 miles), Joshua tells his dog: “It’s been a while since we’ve visited the city, Yellow Dog…. We could see two cities and get in a little run as well.” And so they did – Joshua in his orange gumboots, Yellow Dog beside him, and Aunt Millie driving from stop to stop with pumpkin treats as fuel.

I’m not sure Tirzah Mae was as impressed with the story as I was – it was a bit long and she had her eye on a Barbie easy reader she’d picked up the last time we were at the library (groan!) But I sure enjoyed envisioning my brother, 30 years down the line, running a long distance race fueled by raw green beans.

I’ll be Aunt Millie, driving the Jeep.


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