Eli pushed on through the storm. The snowflakes were so big and so many that he could hardly see the trail in front of him. He was a Pony Express rider delivering the mail in the days of the wild west. Suddenly, an arrow hit him in the back! It felt very cold and wet—sort of like a snowball. It was a snowball.
“I’ll get you, Sarah Jean!” he yelled at his sister.
Ending his game of pretend, he hurried into the house and gave the mail to his dad. Schools were closed and the streets were so slick that Eli’s dad had stayed home from work.
Eli shook the snow from his coat while his father looked at the mail.
“Well, bless my beans!” exclaimed Dad. “I got my new seed catalog. Soon we can start gardening again.”
Dad happily called out the names of vegetables as he thumbed through the catalog.
“Carrots, yum; sweet peppers, oooh; I can almost taste these tomatoes! And just look at these giant pumpkins!”
Eli looked up.
“It says here,” Dad continued, “that this new variety of pumpkin will grow bigger than any pumpkin ever. The seed company is having a contest and will give a prize to the person who grows the biggest pumpkin.”
“Order those seeds, Dad,” Eli was excited. “Please order those seeds so we can grow a giant pumpkin and win that prize!”
“And I’ll grow giant green beans and win a prize, too,” Sarah Jean crowed as she came into the room.
“Green beans don’t grow giant size, silly; they’re long and skinny, like you.” Eli teased his sister.
“Oh, yeah,” she shot back, getting flustered, “well you can just…just…go sit on a tomato!”
By the time the seed order arrived, the snows of winter were long gone. The world looked like a box of crayons. The spring grass was a soft shade of mint green, the tiny new leaves on the maple trees were yellow green, the buds on the dogwood trees were tickle me pink, and the sky was, of course, sky blue.
Eli planted his pumpkin seeds and visited the garden each day to see if they had sprouted. Sarah Jean trailed closely behind him, checking on her green beans. Even if she didn’t win a prize for growing the biggest vegetable, maybe she could win the contest for the first plants to start growing.
Brother and sister spent the summer watering their plants, pulling weeds, and teasing each other.
“Look at those silly pumpkins; they’re green,” Sarah Jean would say. “They want to be like my green beans.”
“They’re just not ripe yet,” Eli said. “Soon they’ll be orange giants.”
He was a bit worried, though. The pumpkins were growing bigger every day, but they weren’t turning orange. However, one was getting especially large and he thought it might become the prizewinner he was hoping for. He named it Paul Bunyan, for the giant lumberjack he had read about in school.
When he told his sister about the name, she only teased him more and threw a dirt clod at Eli while he was admiring his pumpkin.
They both ran from the garden and into the house, brother chasing sister and shouting, “I’ll get you, Sarah Jean!”
As summer grew longer and the plants grew larger, Mom and Dad came up with a plan. They would have the kids enter their produce in the county fair. Maybe then Eli wouldn’t think so much about winning a prize from the seed company, and maybe Sarah Jean wouldn’t tease him so much.
According to the rules, Sarah Jean’s entry would be a plate of ten of her biggest and best green beans. Eli could enter one pumpkin. Of course it would be Paul Bunyan.
The kids got so excited about the fair that they did stop fighting for a while. Eli even secretly hoped that Sarah Jean would win a prize for her green beans. He didn’t want her to feel too bad when he and Paul Bunyan won the blue ribbon for pumpkins. He just knew they would win.
The week before the fair started, the family loaded up Eli’s giant pumpkin and Sarah Jean’s best green beans. The judges would award the ribbons before opening day; then the crowds would come to see who and what had won.
The night before the grand opening, Eli dreamed that he was already at the fair. An announcement was being made. . . . “come see the 500 pound pumpkin, the largest pumpkin ever grown. . . .” The crowd was cheering and calling out his name. . . “Eli, Eli, Eli . . . ”
It sounded just like his mother’s voice; it was his mother’s voice!
“Eli, wake up,” she said, “Today’s the opening of the fair; let’s get going!”
Soon, the family joined the crowd entering the fairgrounds. The air was filled with happy sounds and delicious smells. The music from the midway rides of the Ferris wheel and the carousel called to Eli; the aroma of popcorn and hot dogs beckoned to him. But Eli had only one goal in mind, to see if his pumpkin had won first place.
The whole family headed for the building that held the contest entries: canned goods, quilts, wood crafts, and every fruit and vegetable from apples to zucchini.
Sarah Jean ran ahead to find her entry of green beans.
Eli searched for the pumpkins. There they were, and there was the blue ribbon sitting on top of a huge pumpkin that was not Paul Bunyan! The second place and third place ribbons weren’t on Paul Bunyan, either. In fact, Eli’s pumpkin wasn’t there!
“I won, I won!” Sarah Jean screeched as she ran up to Eli. “My green beans won first prize!”
Eli wanted to cry. Not only did his pumpkin not win a prize; it had disappeared. Sarah Jean was the green bean queen and Eli had nothing!
He felt a warm tear on his cheek as he heard someone call his name. Then his name was being called again, very loudly, over the P.A. system. . . . “please come to the judges table. . . ” the voice said.
At the judges table sat a big man with a big smile on his face. On the floor beside the table sat Paul Bunyan topped with a bright blue first prize ribbon!
Eli couldn’t believe it. He tried to speak, but no words came out.
The big man laughed.
“You won first prize for the biggest watermelon,” he said.
“But I thought. . . . ” Eli still couldn’t make sense of things.
The man laughed again.
“You thought you were growing a pumpkin,” he said. “You must have gotten the wrong seeds. Anyway, you won; congratulations!”
“It looks like a giant green bean to me,” Sarah Jean teased.
Eli wiped the tears from his eyes as he looked at his blue ribbon.
“I’ll get you Sarah Jean!” he said.