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Dawn's Column Fun Fall
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Even though the weather has radically swayed from cold and rainy to hot and sunny - all within a few days' time - the cooler weather is definitely the signal that fall has finally arrived. Although I think there's something great about every season, to me, this is the best time of year.

The evenings and early mornings require the occasional sweater, there's a refreshing briskness to the air, but it's not too cold yet. I like the sound of the leaves rustling when the wind blows and find it soothing to listen to raindrops on the roof.

Autumn ushers in different types of activities and options for being outdoors. For my husband, it's primarily football games and the baseball playoffs. Believe it or not, I enjoy some of this as well, just not so much on TV. I also like putting in the new season's plantings and adding festive décor around the house.

It's funny how you have to wait until it gets colder outside before you decide to sip hot cocoa or order soup on the menu. For me, the crock pot doesn't come out of the cupboard until this time of year, but I welcome its presence because it means less time spent making dinner.

One of my very favorite things about autumn, though, is carving pumpkins. I have this thing about it. It's like I have to carve pumpkins or I feel like I'm missing out on some special tradition. And it's really not just limited to Halloween, it's become a full fall activity.

When I was a kid, we had limited options for what kind of look you could create when carving a pumpkin. That was mainly because we had limited tools, which consisted of an unwieldy kitchen knife to carve with and a big, funky spoon for scooping out the junk. I remember once when I tried to give my jack o' lantern a more interesting look by giving it a missing tooth look, with three square teeth. That was about as good as it got, but its eyes and nose were still triangles.

Years later, but still many years ago, one of my girlfriends would have an annual birthday/Halloween party. We'd go out and collect a gazillion pumpkins, filling the back of her mom's old International Scout, then carve as many as we could late into the night to have ready for the party. Because all this carving took place on the back porch in late October, the later it got our hands would start to feel like icicles due to being wet from continually scooping out all the pumpkin guts. Those were good times, but our "jacks" still had the basic triangle eyes and nose with a few slight variations.

Then at some point in my college years, I discovered those special pumpkin carving tools and pattern booklets. I found out that even an artistically challenged person like myself was able to create a pumpkin masterpiece.

I've been hooked ever since.

You may think I'm getting a little too old for this, as pumpkin carving is usually seen as a kids activity done by adults only when the kids need help with it. All I have to say of that is this: I like it because it's fun. And, if anything, this is one responsible way to recapture my youth.

Over the years I've bought more of those tools, including a special, sturdy pumpkin goop scooper - no more freezing hands. Now, I can also get patterns and ideas off the Internet. Since it does require a little extra time and patience to do some of the more elaborate carvings, I usually just carve one. My husband also gamely participates in this activity with me. The results are so cool I'm feeling more ambitious this year and may carve a couple.

It's also really fun to go to the pumpkin patch. The gourds don't have to be "perfect" in shape, just interesting. They don't even have to be orange. There are lots of different colored pumpkins and gourds to choose from. Some of the larger pumpkin patches have a wide variety of activities to entertain people of different ages. I've gone on haunted hayrides, through various corn mazes, and raced bicycle-pedal tractors around a track, to name a few.

This still may sound like kid stuff, but believe me, I'm not the only adult out there recapturing their youth. Incorporating a little fun into our busy and responsible lives is a good release, and for me a great tradition.

Dawn M. Henley is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.