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Punkin Center

Page 2

The old Irish folktale of Jack-O-Lantern

by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
Page 1

And that brings us back to that old Irish folktale, without which Texas pumpkin industry would have remained a mere pumpkin in metaphor, not a pretty economic carriage.

Back in the 18th century, an Irishman named Jack had an unfortunate propensity for strong beverage. But he did not let his drinking get in the way of his antipathy toward the Devil, who he tricked into climbing an apple tree.

Once Jack had the Devil treed, he carved a cross on the trunk, an action he knew would prevent the Devil from climbing down. The Devil pleaded for his freedom, and Jack finally struck a deal: If Jack let him down, the Devil would never come after Jacks soul.

That seemed like a good trade, so Jack covered the cross and the Devil was free to return to his normal level of devilment.

Unfortunately for Jack, the deal with the Devil did not include immortality. When Jack died, his hard drinking, penuriousness and other issues sent his spirit down instead of up.

The Devil proved true to his word and refused to allow Jack into the nether regions. But Jack did not qualify for Heaven either, and realized this. Unfortunately, his spirit was doomed to wander forever.

It being dark out, the Devil graciously threw a glowing coal at Jack so he could find his way around. Jack placed the red hot coal in a hollowed turnip to make himself a lantern.

Somehow over the centuries, the turnip gave way to the pumpkin, hence the enduring symbol of Halloween, the Jack-O-Lantern. All of which makes about as much sense as naming four different communities Punkin Center.-


Mike Cox
More "Texas Tales" October 26, 2004 Column

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