MORRISON, Colo. — When you’ve been retired for 22 years like Jack Slade has, you usually find a hobby.
“Gives you something to look forward to every day,” he explained.
The 85-year-old, who was raised on a farm in Kansas, gave his focus to gardening.
“I did grow potatoes here and always grow tomatoes,” he said.
But his backyard garden in Morrison soon became home to something much, much bigger.
“Most people think this is a big pumpkin,” he said, sitting on a 150-pound orange gourd.
For Jack, that isn’t big at all.
“My first pumpkin I grew in 2011 was 500 pounds,” he said with a laugh.
While an average pumpkin might clock in at around 15 to 20 pounds, Jack has been regularly growing gourds 10 to 20 times that for the last decade.
“It gets real complicated,” he said.
Every year, Jack fertilizes the soil by hand, adding in horse manure, compost, alfalfa and leaves. He also built a timed watering system to keep the massive plants hydrated, all in a quest to grow the biggest pumpkin possible.
“At first, I kept trying to get the biggest. So in 2013, I had a 992-pound pumpkin. It was so big I couldn’t get it in my (Ford) Ranger,” he said.
But after getting that close to 1,000 pounds, and now getting closer to 90 years old himself, Jack decided he couldn’t top that number. He now grows giant pumpkins for looks.
“I’d rather take home the prettiest than the biggest from the dance,” he said, laughing.
Locally, he’s won the Howard Dill Award for best-looking giant pumpkin four times. As he goes for five this year, he also has a backup plan for his giant vegetables.
“I always carve it, put it on the driveway, put a light in it,” he said, explaining that it requires power tools and saws to do so.
Award or not, Jack knows he’ll still have the biggest jack-o'-lanterns in town.