Monday, January 17, 2011

My childhood is divided into two parts. Part one was during the years that I lived in a real house. Part two runs a fair distance into adulthood, where I lived in the store (the back of my parents store) or dorm rooms or trailer houses. The dividing line was about the age of ten when my parents had to sell the house at the edge of town to pay off debts.
    During part one, I remember Daddy stopping at roadside vendors. Remember the big trucks loaded with watermelons from the Rio Grand Valley? They would slice up their product, or cut a plug, and offer you a taste as inducement to buy. Then Daddy would get the biggest lower priced melon and haul it home. The watermelon went into the refrigerator. Mama would have to rearrange the food and remove one of the shelves to fit it in. Next day it was sliced into four equal size pieces and we ate it. Yum! Yum!
    Because we did it that way, my brain was programmed to think that was the way to eat watermelon. After part one of my life I have trouble remembering eating watermelon. What I do remember is the first violation of the proper way to eat watermelon.
    At a birthday party there were several kids, and, instead of cake and ice cream they had watermelon. The mom got out two or three melons and began to slice them up. When she had the first one cut in quarters I began to pick out my piece. Then she cut the quarters in half and the eigths in half. I could not believe my eyes. Even today, more than half a century later, I can feel my shock.
    When President Kennedy was assassinated a classmate came to the door of Mr. Bowen’s room and shouted the news... I can still see my hand on the desk. Part of that picture is the sink on the right and the chrome faucets on the left. in the background is the teachers table. I can still recall my thoughts, word for word.
    What that woman did to that watermelon, while certainly of no great importance to anyone but me, was just as shocking. I can still see the picnic table, The grass beyond, the woman and the knife Assassinating that watermelon. High hopes and expectations dashed. Crushed for half a century. I don’t even remember eating my tiny sliver of watermelon.
    The scene itself was the first of many such. Huge delicious watermelons reduced to slivers and served to many or reserved for future meals. And, they almost always recall that first abomination.
     Then some guy starts to worry about Marketability. Grocers can’t sell big watermelon that take up the whole refrigerator shelf at home. Housewives couldn’t even pick then up. Now all you can buy are the tiny seedless (big whoop-dee-doo) things... and they are sold by the pound. I take pride in never having bought a watermelon by the pound. I have never even picked one up. I even shun watermelon distributed by the slice, free or not.
    I tried growing them, up in Wyoming, but it was hard to get the 120 day product to grow in the 80 day season. As likely as not the blooms, The ones not eaten by the deer and the antelope, were frozen by early frost or smothered by bind weed.
     I finally started buying whole watermelon again, a couple of years ago, when our local grocer here in Town, began selling them for $3.99 each, even though they were smaller than a deflated vollyball.
     The store bought fruit reminded me of how much I enjoyed digging into a cold, juicy, sweet, quarter of a melon. With the “Ranch” in hand, I decided to till it up and plant a garden. Watermelons were the first seeds in the ground. The flood on Dry Coon Creek got them that year.
    Last year I planted late, but I bought a short season variety. The vines grew all over the place and competed with my pumpkins for space. These guys were just a shade larger than a softball. I got one or two to actually mature. Still they left a little to be desired. No, they left a lot to be desired.
    This year, while browsing a hardware store, I spotted a seed rack. On that rack were watermelon seed. Black Diamond watermelon seed. (Remember those huge, round, dark green melons? Those were Black Diamond.) I had to do this. I had to buy them. There were maybe 12 seeds in the $1.79 package.
    I planted 3 hills. One, count them, One seed came up and grew. It looked pretty sad but I still gave it water and fertilizer and pulled any weeds that came up. As a backup, I found more Black Diamond seed and planted them. They were late. They have some little melons on them now, in the first week of October. They are not going to make before frost.
    My one original seed eventually set nine melons. I picked the second biggest melon just before Labor Day. It was huge. It was not ripe, mostly white inside and no sweetness at all. Some unknown soul carried off the largest melon over the Labor Day weekend. I have taken some small consolation in hoping that person went to some effort cooling my melon and preparing to serve it, only to find it was nowhere near ripe. An unhappy thought sometimes prevails... that it was a bunch of kids who couldn’t tell a ripe melon from a green one, and happily ate the whole thing, never knowing the difference.
    Two days ago I picked the largest of my remaining melons. Events delayed my dealing with it until today. the melon was too large for our large refrigerator. It was cold last night so I put it outside to chill. This morning I wrapped it in a blanket to keep it cool. This afternoon I put in a  container and covered it with ice. After supper, Wife had to go to a meeting.
    So, here I was, all alone, with a huge, potentially delicious, cold, sweet, wonderful sample Of God’s creation. After fifty Years... I cut it into quarters, set one on a soup bowl and dug in. It was wonderful!
    I had to stuff the last few bites down, but I had done it. I had eaten a quarter of a huge watermelon.
    As I looked over the cleaned out rind, I began to experience satisfaction. Not so much that that comes from a good meal, as from a victory, the rebirth of a long suppressed tradition. I felt so good I almost cleaned the kitchen and took out the garbage.
    Even now, three hours later, I still have a warm glow of satisfaction, and I need pee, again.

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