Front page news in Athens, TN this weekend: Funky punkin’

The following is the front page story for The Daily Post-Athenian this weekend. This is just mind-blowing. FRONT PAGE NEWS IN ATHENS, approved TENNESSEE! Enjoy:


Friday, stomach October 30, 2009
CLAXTON – You haven’t seen eerie or spooky until you’ve seen a 16-year-old jack-o’-lantern. Or, rather, the dried husk of a jack-o’-lantern with five faces carved in its surface.

Perry Riden said of the three “Riden Boys,” youngest son Eric was the pumpkin carver.

“Eric carved it when he was in eighth grade in 1993,” Riden said. “His Grandma Riden – whom they called Mammy – set it on cardboard over a floor register and dried it.”

Riden said her son got the idea to carve five faces in a large pumpkin from a character in “Transformers.” The design was patterned after the Quintessons, fictional aliens/space monsters that were both organic and robotic.

“If I understand it correctly, the Quintessons were creators of the Transformers in the 1980s cartoons,” Riden said. “This race of beings had squid-like arms and five faces on a robotic head.”

Riden has kept the dried pumpkin – complete with stem “cap” – for 16 years.

This is hilarious to me. Front page news! “Look! It’s an old pumpkin!”

The explanation of who the Quintessons are and what their role was in the original Transformers cartoons is all straight from me. I Twittered about being on the phone with my mom, explaining that to her. I spent 20 minutes giving her all of the glorious back-story details I have had crammed away in my brain since, what, 1985? That stuff is important! Everything else, forgotten. I took three Calculus classes in college. THREE! (Well, let’s be honest. I took the same Calculus class three times before I passed it. Still..) I remember NOTHING. I DO know the origin story of the Transformers inside and out. So suck on that, complete lack of marketable skills!

They referred to Grace Riden as “Mammy” – we started calling my dad’s parents “Mammy and Pappy” because they lived in Maryville, TN (read: “Muurrrrrrrrrviilllle” – not kidding, that’s how you say it) and those were the most country sounding names we could think up. They thought it was funny, too, and totally went along with it. I love how it makes us sound even more country bumpkin now. “Funky punkin’ bumpkin!”

Also, the ambiguous “Riden has kept the dried pumpkin.. for 16 years.” sounds like this is a wacky family keepsake my mom has held on to. She is a packrat, and it has to stop.. but I should clarify.. Eric Riden has kept the dried pumpkin for 16 years. Granted, it’s been sitting in his old bedroom back at the Riden Hascienda where he has not lived in the last 10 years.. but yeah it’s there. And it’s not the strangest thing there, by a long shot.. so send a photog and a reporter, news hounds, ’cause the story is much deeper than a dried gourd.

The paper, inexplicably, posted a 53-second video of the thing being rotated again and again.

Some people ask, “Hey Chad, what was high school like for you?” Imagine being in a town where the most exciting news for the weekend is a dried out pumpkin. This morning, there were a dozen elderly people sitting in a Hardees in Athens, TN drinking coffee and talking about the Quintessons.

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