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Nov. 6, 2005 | Wilma smashes pumpkin, Halloween tradition

They must be in their early 50s now, the Boy Scouts who first speared a jack-o-lantern on the steeple above North Miami's public library in 1969.

In what's become a Halloween tradition in the city, the secretive group calling themselves Coxie's Army put another pumpkin atop the roof Monday night, and left a poem and some military rations.

But slippery conditions up there, due to Hurricane Wilma, kept them from making it to the steeple.

A "somewhat smashed" pumpkin was found, along with an apologetic poem, city spokeswoman Pam Solomon said.

"They did get it up on the roof. People were saying, 'hey, how'd a pumpkin get up there?'" said library director Ilene Vegazo.

The poem describes the ardors of middle age and rain-slicked blue tarps on the Wilma-damaged roof of the library.

The poem was signed by "Staff Sergeant Skeeter, " "Major Minor" and "Colonel Coxie, " three of the six known Army members.

Because of ongoing repair work on the roof, the pumpkin had a short life span this year, and no photos were taken.

"We suffered the demise of a pumpkin, " Vegazo said.

The library has a display showing poems and photos of the annual feat going back 36 years now, and an old photo of the secretive group with faces blacked out.

The fullest communication came in a nine-page letter marking the 25th anniversary of the prank in 1994. An anonymous author said the "army" was originally a group of Scouts living near the library.

"We were too old for trick or treats and too young for adult parties, " the letter stated.

"We wanted something to do that would satisfy the rotten kid in us . . . adventurous and mischievous but not harmful or destructive."

The group's name, according to the letter, arose when their Scoutmaster inspected their ranks and said, "You guys are a mess. You look as bad as Coxie's Army." The misspelled reference - these scouts should have gone inside the library to look it up! - is a reference to Coxey's Army, a rag-tag group of unemployed workers who marched on Washington, D.C., in 1894, led by Jacob Coxey.

All but one member had moved away from North Miami at the time of the letter, and included a Broward minister and electrician, a boat mechanic in Maryland, a Tallahassee carpenter, and an Orlando restaurant owner.

"Lt. Colonel Yeti P. Sasquatch, " described as a self-made naturalist, still lived in the North Miami area.

It's apparently the first time they've failed to spike the steeple. In 1984, renovations added four feet to the steeple's height - now more than 47 feet off the ground - but the pranksters had no problem that year.

"The steeple is now close to 50 feet high, " the library staff wrote that year in a note to Coxie's Army.

"If you fall off, I hope you can fly."