Mountain Bummy’s Rare Squash

Rediscovering a unique Pennsylvania Dutch heirloom locally know as Mountian Bummy squash, named after the nickname of the man who discovered it.


| Fall 2014



Squash

This heirloom Pennsylvania Dutch squash variety is an excellent keeper.

Photo by RobCardillo.com

I am not sure which is more colorful: the man who originally saved this heirloom squash, or the manner in which I found it. Let us zoom back in time to 1974 to a virtually frozen-in-time Victorian country store in a little crossroads place called Niantic, Pennsylvania. The owner of the property at the time was Lamar W. Bumbaugh, otherwise known as Mountain Bummy, a trapper and dealer in furs, a flea market picker and seller of rare books, and perhaps foremost an herb pappy, which in Pennsylvania Dutch is known as Brauchmeeschter (powwow doctor). 

Powwow medicine is alive and well in the Dutch Country. It is a type of faith healing intermingled with very ancient pre-Christian beliefs, a reliance on botanical remedies or “green cures,” and presumably a mystical ability to communicate with plants. Among the Pennsylvania Dutch practitioners this ability is called Iewwing and it is the green Iewwing upon which they rely for their healing effectiveness.

Mountain Bummy was famous locally for his unique abilities, and because my own grandfather had been schooled in the same learning, I visited Bummy often to hear the yarns he had to tell. I also bought books and herbs from him, so business was a mixture of powwow chat and what sort of treasures he had just found in a neighborhood attic. Bummy was a charmer when it came to women, so it was no surprise to me that lonely widows kept his phone number on file. Conquests and antiquing went hand in hand. 

Bummy also maintained a garden. It was located behind the store (he lived upstairs), and parts of it were hidden by a screen of towering corn—because on the other side of the corn, or more accurately, in the middle of it, stood a number of robust, tree-like marijuana plants which seemed to supply the real cash flow upon which the Bummy Industry operated. When all else failed him financially, his network of widows came to the rescue for a few ounces of relaxation. They also provided him with many of the rare herbs he grew in his garden, and he was keenly aware of their history, their powwow uses, and even that there was such a thing as an heirloom plant.

It was there in Bummy’s garden where I first saw the squash that now bears his name. And I know that it was in 1974 because Bummy was at the time setting up his herb society and had just printed brochures outlining the proposed workshops for 1975 (see image on next page).

The squash possessed a form that I had never seen before, like a large pear-shaped lump of dough beginning to melt. Bummy kept them all over the store, on shelves, hanging from the ceiling by rope, nestled among piles of furs, and sliced up into schnitz (small segments) and strung across the room like crepe paper for a party. He actually lived off this squash most of the winter and sometimes cooked it with game he had trapped for fur.





elderberry, echinacea, bee hive

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