Know what one of my favorite summer pastimes is?
Eating’ watermelon. That’s right, just eating’ some cold, juicy watermelon.
People these days don’t really know how to eat one. It’s been made way too civilized. Back when I was growing up, we enjoyed melons every day, and I’ve learned by my experience how to really eat and enjoy one.
Back in those days, Ed Jr. would grow a large garden behind our house. We lived on a big hill, and he grew the melons on some flat land down at its bottom. He always grew melons, corn, squash, butter beans, and a few other things. It seems like we mostly pulled melons in either June or July of each year.
When those months rolled around, Ernest or I had the daily job of going down the hill and determining which melon to pull. That meant deciding which melon was ripest. We learned that you had to thump a melon to determine if it was ripe or not. Typically, you’d thump it somewhere in the middle – if it made a sharp “thunk,” it wasn’t ready to be pulled. If you thumped it and it made a hollow sound, it was ready to be chugged up the hill.
That’s the part Ernest and I hated. We hated it so much that we played a hand of poker each morning to determine which one of us had to do it. After the hand, the loser went down the hill and did his duty. When he returned he took the melon inside and put it in our refrigerator.
We kept a space cleared out for one, and we’d take the cold one out and put the new one in. Then, we’d rush the chilled melon outside to the master of watermelon surgery, Ed Jr.
We called him that because Ed Jr. could split and cut a melon into four chunks faster than anyone I’ve ever seen. He’d take the melon, put it on a big wooden table in our backyard, eyeball it, and then pop the knife to it. He’d cut the first slice the melon in half, and then quickly turn those halves into fourths. And the thing was, it seldom took him more than twenty seconds to accomplish all that.
Once surgery was completed, we each grabbed a chunk and laid into it. We never used knives or forks, we just leaned over and bit right into the red meat. God, it was good. Good, tasty, and cold. The first bite always made my teeth hurt, but Ed Jr. said that was the price you had to pay “for one of the good Lord’s finest gifts, almost up there with women or football.
“Whatever the price, I loved those watermelons sugar, and it got to the point that I could eat one without getting one drop of juice on my face. And if you’ve ever “bare teethed” a melon, you know that’s not a very easy thing to do.
We enjoyed melons for years, until one day Ed Jr. noticed that some deer were getting’ into our garden and cleaning out our crops. He promptly put in an electric fence, and it worked for awhile, but soon we started getting cleaned out again.
The end to our melons came one day when Ernest and I walked down the hill to harvest yet another one. While gabbing with Ed Jr., Ernest leaned over and touched the electric fence. Nothing happened. Ed Jr. stared and then cussed the fence, claiming that it was broke and that he’d found the problem regarding the deer.
To further emphasize his point, he walked over and touched the fence himself. You could hear the pop when he did – it shocked him so badly that he nearly came out of his shoes (we found out later on that Ernest was wearing Hush Puppies, and we think the rubber soles protected him).
After cooling off, Ed Jr. declared that the whole situation was a sign, and that the days of our garden were ended. Ernest and I were both disappointed, but that’s how it all ended up.
To this day, when I go to one of these fancy dinners and walk by a dish of sliced up melon, I still have this overpowering urge to thrust my face right into the bowl and gobble it all down. And you know what? I’ll bet money that I’d come up out of that bowl without one single drop of juice on my face…