"Hey guys! I need a favor. Do you want to hear more?"
The two Dennis the Menace clones who live next door, stop pulling beach gear out of the family minivan and looked at me. Their dad turns inquiringly.
"Did you notice we plowed a big strip of land in the backyard?" I ask.
"Can you guess what we're trying to grow there?" I continue.
"Flowers?" says the younger of the two uncertainly.
"Corn on the cob?" says the older one, the ring leader of the duo.
"Good guess, but that's not right either. You'll never guess, so let me tell you. Giant pumpkins!" Both kids leaned in with interest. "Yup, we're trying to grow pumpkins that might be as big as 400 pounds! Regular pumpkins are only maybe 15 or 20 pounds." I mimed lifting a big pumpkin. And then mimed trying to lift an even bigger pumpkin. "I need some help."
"What kind of help?"
"Well, I'm in charge of keeping rabbits and other animals away from the plants. And I wonder if you could help me keep kids in the neighborhood away from the pumpkins. Can you help me keep *other* kids from running on the plants and throwing balls on the plants?" (Here's the secret - these are the very same kids I'm worried will trample the pumpkins. I need them on my side to keep the plants safe.)
"Do you need us to keep birds away too? They can hurt plants."
"Good point. I'll be in charge of birds and rabbits. I really need your help keeping kids out of the garden. If you help I'll let you help carve a 400-pound jack-o-lantern," I say temptingly.
Dad, who encourages rambunctious behavior by organizing the boys "play" hunt neighborhood cottontails in the backyard, chimes in, "Well guys, that seems like a pretty good deal. Are you in?"
The older brother, with the poorly cut blond bowl cut says, "Yes!," while the younger brother opens his mouth to say more. He then simply nods, closes his mouth, and turns away.
The kids are hellions. I've had visions of them digging up the garden, playing soccer with the tender fruit, using their play machetes to tear apart the 3,000 square feet of vines, and building a fort in the giant squash should it mature to be big enough to play in.
I'll keep you posted on the saga of the neighborhood brats and the Great Pumpkin.