Sunday, August 26, 2012

watermelon memories

Someone brought home a gigantic Georgia watermelon yesterday.  He was driving home and saw a roadside vendor selling produce out of a truck.  The watermelons were nearly twice the size of the ones grown locally, so he knew the produce was grown south of here somewhere.  He hoped to find peaches (his favorite), but alas no peaches.  Instead, he bought a monster watermelon for $8.  Great deal and it’s a wonderful melon.


I can hardly see a watermelon without thinking of my great-grandfather’s farm.  I spent lots of time there, nearly all of every summer and most days after school.  I had little appreciation for country living  in my youth.  It was a place where work never ended, where my brothers were my only playmates, where modern conveniences were few, and where time stood still on rainy days.
old house, St Paul, Kentucky

My grandfather grew watermelons, beans, sweet corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, okra, and zucchini to sell to grocery stores in nearby towns, but most of his profit came from raising tobacco.  When the melons were ripe, we ate watermelon until it came out our ears.  I never tired of it though.

One Sunday afternoon when I was about eight years old, company came to visit.  My grandmother picked a watermelon from the field and set it outside on the picnic table to share with everyone.  She told me to go bring her a big butcher knife and reminded me not to run with it.  She worried about every possible mishap. 

Everyone was outside when I went into the kitchen.  I took the opportunity to fill my pockets with matches and stash away some cookies for later before opening the drawer to select a knife.  The drawer had many knifes and not being sure which was a butcher knife, I picked a big, long one.  Just as I turned to go out, the leather strop my great grandfather used to sharpen his razor caught my eye.  Many mornings I’d watched him sharpen his razor and shave right there in the kitchen over the sink (they had no indoor bathroom in this house).  I walked over, and just as I’d seen him do, I sharpened the knife.  I wondered to myself, “Does this make knives sharp, or just razors?”  I examined the blade closely and saw no difference.  A test was needed.  I ran my thumb down the edge of the blade and immediately realized I’d just sliced the shit out of myself.  Indeed, the strop worked on knives too.

Sometimes, my brothers and I stole a watermelon when the adults were occupied and we were hungry.  In these cases, we looked for a smaller melon that might go unnoticed, and we selected a melon from the part of the patch that couldn’t be seen from the house.  We couldn’t be too careful.  We were forbidden to steal melons.  With melon in arms (usually my oldest brother’s arms, sometimes mine), we ran to the back field or sometimes all the way to the riverbank with it.  We were forbidden to the go the river without adult supervision too.  I can’t even imagine what would have happened if we’d been caught with a watermelon on the riverbank (well...not true, I can imagine it). 
partners in crime
The three of us could almost eat a whole watermelon.  We’d just bust it open on a log or large rock and eat the odd shaped pieces as best we could.  No need for manners among thieves.  Sometimes we picked a rotten or unripe one, and that was always disappointing.  Whatever the outcome, we hid the evidence of our crime.  We buried the rinds and seeds, or threw them out into the river.  I preferred to eat our watermelon on the riverbank so I could wash the sticky juice off my hands and chin.  I’ve never liked being sticky. 

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