October 5th, 2008


A long halloween.

I just found out today that a very dear friend of the family had passed away. Jack Crow4ell (the four is silent) died earlier this week. He was a man of amazing talents and many of my favorite childhood memories involve him.

As we fast approach the end of the month, it will be hard for me - Halloween was always Jack's holiday. The saturday before Halloween he would come over to the house - mom would cook up a big pot of chili and we'd all sit at the good dining room table. But what was really exciting was what happened after dinner.

At the kitchen table, now covered with newspaper held down with masking tape, we would set out the pumpkins that we had chosen previously. Jack would look at each one, hold it in his hands, move it about, look hard at the shape. After selecting, he would then set out his tools.

Oh his tools - to a seven year old this was like watching a master at work. He had his own wood carving tools that came in a little case. It was a handle with a dozen of different blades that he could screw on to them. Round, oval, square, chisels, every size you could imagine he had. I would watch him as he would carefully pick the first one and screw it on the handle. It was quite the display.

And the pumpkins he made. Once, from a long and skinny pumpkin, he made a chinese dragon. With one of his shavers he made two long curlieques that stuck out of the nose like fiery tendrils. He could make eyes that would glow with texture and depth. He was smartly funny with his designs and it showed. After we were done we would set them out on the font porch and light them. NEstled between our childlike, gaping toothed faces would be Jack's....with ears that stood out and eyebrows that looked hairy.

After the pumpkins were done we would fill out living room with orange balloons. A floor full of orange balloons while on TV there would be some halloween special or another. Armed with black markers we would go after each balloon and draw jackolantern faces on each one. Jack, sitting on the couch or on the chair would tell stories and laugh with my parents as the pen would squeak along the latex. In the dark of night we the kids, the native bearers, would hold out the balloons for Dad, Mom and Jack to tie from the branches of the trees in the front yard.

It's been many, many years since we had chili with Jack and carved pumpkins with him. There are more memories of Jack, of him performing with the master singers, but perhaps that's a story for my brother to share with us. But, for me, Jack is my halloween master with his box of magic tools that turned pumpkins into art.