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Nov. 5, 1989 | Pumpkin pranksters going strong

After two decades, stunt still intrigues, delights at library

For the 20th year in a row, the great pumpkin of North Miami is looking out from its vantage point above the library that it protects.

Anonymous pranksters first impaled a jack-o'-lantern atop the library steeple on Halloween night in 1969 with a promise that it would watch over and protect the library forever. On Halloween night this year, the 20-year streak remained intact when the smiling face appeared at its post 47 1/2 feet above the ground.

The event has become a ritual for the library staff and the pranksters, who have dubbed themselves Coxie's Army. The army leaves a poem each year along with the pumpkin. The library has begun leaving a welcoming poem for the army.

The library staff used to leave candy on the roof for Coxie's Army, but the army's poem one year asked for beer instead. Head librarian Gloria Zavish said there were some beverages put on the roof this year, but wouldn't specify what.

"We leave diet and regular of everything, " she said. "We had that request, too. Some of them are trying to keep in shape."

She has not tried to find out who the pranksters are. The army, though, often leaves information about itself in the poems.

"They keep us posted when they've been in school or had a baby or been in the Army or moved away, " said Zavish, who thought the pranksters were students at North Miami High when the tradition began.

This year's poem read:

"Twenty years have passed since we made our first climb. And gazed upon a North Miami vista sublime. We are quite aware our poetry stinks, And we sometimes wish the steeple would shrink."

This year's poem is signed by Col. Coxie, Lt. Col. Maj. Minor, Lt. Col. J.P. Sasquatch and Sgt. Skeeter. Col. Flavius was absent this year, but the poem says he will be back. The poem says the group consists of boyhood friends who gather each year in North Miami for the event.

Despite the admittedly low quality of the poetry exchanged, Zavish said the annual ritual provides fun and support for the library staff.

"The pumpkin protects us, " she said. "That's why they put it up there."

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