Once upon a time a traveler hiked down from the mountains into a remote valley to find all the farmers there in a panic. They were running from their vegetable garden into their village, screaming. The women clutched their children close and the men grabbed their hoes, rakes, and pitchforks to defend themselves.
“What’s wrong?” said the traveler.
“There’s a monster out in the field. It’s big and orange and it wants to eat us.”
“Show it to me.”
“Go see it yourself. But be careful, he might eat you.”
The traveler went out to the vegetable garden and there was indeed something big and orange there. He returned to the village. “I saw it. It’s nothing but a pumpkin, you idiots” he laughed. “A bird must’ve dropped a pumpkin seed into your garden and it grew and you think it’s a monster.”
The men of the village looked at each other and attacked the traveler with their hoes, rakes, and pitchforks because they didn’t like to be told they were idiots.
A couple of weeks later a second traveler hiked down from the mountains into the remote valley. By now the vegetable garden had been taken over by weeds and the pumpkin had grown larger and larger. The villagers had constructed a wall protecting their village. They were cowering behind it. The traveler came to the gate and the villagers pulled him inside.
“Come in before the monster gets you.”
“There’s a monster out there?” he said. “I didn’t see it.”
“Yes, there is,” they said. “It’s big and orange and it’s taking over everything.”
The traveler stepped out of the gate and looked at the garden. “Oh, yes, I think I see it. Hand me that hoe and I’ll slay it for you.”
“If you think you can, but be careful, he might eat you.”
The second traveler boldly went to the garden with the hoe and busted the fearsome pumpkin into a million pieces. He held the hoe over his head and shouted. He took a piece of pumpkin in his hands and bit it, the juices ran down his chin.
He marched back into the village expecting the villagers to cheer him, the men to shake his hand, and the women to throw their arms around him and kiss him. However, the men of the village looked at each other and attacked the traveler with their hoes, rakes, and pitchforks because, if he could slay the big orange monster, then this creature who looks like a man must be a monster, too.
A year later a third traveler came down from the mountains into the remote valley. Although the land was well watered and fertile, all the fields were overgrown and neglected. Hundreds of pumpkins grew in the former garden, their orange skin glowering from behind the weeds and volunteer vegetables. The villagers hid behind their wall. They were starving, too weak even to meet him at the gate.
He walked in and said, “Why are you all starving inside these walls when the valley is well watered and fertile?”
“Didn’t you see the big orange monsters?” They took him to the gate and pointed to the pumpkins. “Last year there was only one, but now hundreds have come to eat us.”
This traveler was wiser than the first two. He said, “Oh, no, I didn’t see them when I walked by. They were hiding in the weeds. I’m lucky I made it here.”
The villagers smiled and said, “You better stay with us until they go away.”
The next day the third traveler said to the villagers, “You know, if I’m real careful with those monsters, I may be able to tame them. Hand me that little bit of food you have left and I can see what I can do.”
The villagers were reluctant to hand over the last bit of food. They met and discussed it for hours. At last, they gave it to the third traveler and said, “We discussed your proposal and decided that if nothing was done, we would all starve anyway, so go ahead and take our last bit of food and try to tame the monsters. You’re a very brave man. Be careful out there.”
The traveler took the food and carefully crept out to tame the monsters by luring them nearby with the food. From time to time he would run back and say that the monsters had almost caught him, but he would always have his arms full of volunteer vegetables he had picked. The people of the village ate the vegetables but tried to convince him not to go out again. They all thought he was very brave. One in particular, the finest looking girl in the village, was very impressed, and would hug and kiss him every time he left, expecting never to see him again.
After a few days of this, he returned with a small pumpkin in his arms.
“Isn’t he cute?” he said to the people.
The villagers were amazed to see that he had tamed a monster, even if it was only a small one. One by one, each of the villagers came up to pet the beast and feel its tough, cold skin. The traveler even kept his tamed monster in his hut. Every day he tamed and brought in a new pumpkin and one by one, everyone in the village adopted one until there were none left in the garden. When all the pumpkins were tamed, the people could go out and tend their crops. They never were hungry again.
The grateful villagers elected the third traveler mayor. He married the best looking girl and lived till a ripe old age in the biggest house in the village. The villagers even renamed their remote land Pumpkin Valley and flew a Pumpkin colored flag. To this day, every house keeps a pet pumpkin seated in a place of honor on the mantle.
I got the waif in my doorway to talk by performing my special taming the pumpkin technique. Although she was round-headed, she was not the pumpkin. She was a fearful villager; the pumpkin, as it turns out, was the security guard.
For more information see: If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him