Kate Abbott: Kayakers paddle in pumpkins


Last week, I saw a pumpkin race. Teams of three in relays actually sat in hollowed-out giant pumpkins and paddled with kayak paddles. It gave me a lift that the best racer on the winning team is a woman. In the solo races later, she piloted a pumpkin boat she had carved herself -- a tippy craft with swan's wings.

These were the entrants in the annual Pumpkin Regatta in Damariscotta, Maine. And I was standing in the crowd by the waterside, earlier in the morning than I am usually awake, touseled and smelling faintly of wood smoke and kerosene lamps, and laughing.

Last week I took a break, after the last Bershires Week magazine of the season, and spent a long weekend in my grandfather's cabin. It's an octagonal wooden single room with a wood stove and a collection of oil lamps. When the sun sets, it gets dark.

In the fall, with the half a dozen small lamp flames burning, the cabin feels like a Jack-o-lantern itself.

And just north, Damariscotta was full of giant pumpkins. All the shops on Main Street had carved or painted their own (for photos, see the blog at www.berkshireeagle.com/bytheway). Outside Round Top's ice cream parlor, three pumpkins in a row boat lined up as a massive banana split. Inside, the crew of scoopers dug out the last dozen flavors, taking names off the menu as they finished each gallon.

This was Columbus Day weekend, and you could feel the town making the shift from summer season to quiet winter days. But the pumpkins will be there through Halloween -- the witch's kitchen, the lion, Totoro, Smokey the Bear. My favorite, in front of the general store, is a coppery pumpkin still with a pipe for smaller pumpkins at the top and vials of "pumpkin juice" at the bottom.

The whole idea, the celebration gave zest to the moning, as I stood there in the sea air watching the local weather man tip out of his pumpkin boat and swim to the dock.

So I'm issuing a challenge to the Berkshires: What can we make that can turn into something this much fun?

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