Great Pumpkin Theft Is Talk of the Nation


     SPEARFISH, S.D. (CN) – News of the great pumpkin theft spread quickly, from Spearfish, S.D., to Washington and New York. Matt Murraine, the disabled veteran who grew the 100-lb. pumpkin, says he would have given it to thieves if they’d asked for it.
     “I enjoy watching the pumpkins grow; other than that, they’re for other people,” Murraine said.
     Murraine, who is studying to be a pastor, says he was surprised to find himself in the national news for being the victim of pumpkin theft.
     “Right now in Spearfish I can’t go anywhere because everyone stops me and is like, ‘You’re the pumpkin guy, right?'” he told Courthouse News
     Murraine planted the Big Mac pumpkin in May, his first effort at growing a super pumpkin. It weighed in at 100 lbs. when he returned home from taking his kids to school on Sept. 17 to find it missing. The thieves left tire tracks across his yard, backed a truck right up to the pumpkin, and sawed off the stem.
     “That pumpkin was supposed to go to our pastor’s kids so they could carve it for Halloween,” Murraine said.
     The pumpkin wasn’t ripe, so it couldn’t be eaten. Big Mac pumpkins can grow to 200 lbs. if properly cared for.
     Murraine estimated his pumpkin would have reached 120 lbs. It grew about two inches a night and was a frequent topic of conversation among his neighbors. “Kids would come and give the pumpkins great big hugs and see if they could get their arms around them,” he said.
     Murraine still has a second pumpkin in his yard, to give to his neighbor, a single mother of five, so her kids can carve it. But it’s only about half the size of the stolen pumpkin. Kids still stop by to check the pumpkin’s progress, but Murraine says it’s “not nearly as exciting as the one that got stolen.”
     The pumpkin went missing a week before Rapid City’s Great Downtown Pumpkin Festival, but Murraine said it wasn’t big enough to win a size contest there.
     But “This pumpkin had great shape and no black spots, so maybe it did go down there. I hope they [the thieves] won a prize for it or something; hopefully their efforts were worth it.”
     Murraine said he never intended to keep the pumpkin, and would have given it to the thieves if they had asked.
     He reported the theft to the police, then called a local newspaper. Pretty soon it was in The York Times and The Washington Post.
     “There must not be enough bad things going on in the country because everyone wants to talk about my pumpkin,” Murraine said, laughing.
     But his passion for pumpkin growing remains.
     Next year he wants to try a variety that can grow up to 1,000 lbs.
     For one thing, he says, it will harder be to steal.
     “It would be like putting Cinderella’s buggy on the back of a truck,” he said.     
     The world pumpkin record was set and broken three times last year, and the U.S. record twice, in exciting cucurbit-weighing competitions.
     Beni Meier in Switzerland grabbed a Guinness World record with a 2,096 pounder, then broke his own record twice, with pumpkins weighing in at 2,102 and then 2,323 lbs.
     Across the ocean and the United States, two Californians tried but failed to match the champ, but set U.S. records.
     Cindi and Peter Glasier set a U.S. record in October last year with a 2,036 pounder. It was nearly 20 feet in circumference and brought them a $14,252 prize – $7 a pound – at a pumpkin contest in San Martin.
     The Glasiers are professional pumpkin growers. Their record didn’t last long, as John Hawley eclipsed it a few weeks later at the Half Moon Bay Art and Pumpkin Festival. His squash tipped the scales at 2,058 lbs. He got $6 a pound for it – $12,348.
     Those are some pricey pumpkins.
     (Murraine’s photo shows the stolen pumpkin with his 3-year-old daughter.)