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Let's Reminisce: Watermelon season
By Jerry Lincecum
Jul 10, 2018
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While trading reminiscences by email with C. J. Moore of Fannin County, I discovered that he and I share childhood memories of certain pleasures that I associate with summertime.  As a country boy, I helped my father and uncle raise acres and acres of watermelons (Black Diamonds and Charleston Grays), and we rarely sold enough of them to make a profit.  But our family did enjoy eating a fair number of the melons, which were taken for granted as a summertime treat.

C.J.’s melon memories are more interesting.  He grew up in town (Temple, TX) and it was there that he enjoyed melon feasts:

 

We would often walk to one of the many "watermelon gardens" that would spring up on vacant lots about town when melons from east Texas would ripen.  Costumers could choose from giant "Rattlesnake Blacks" or "Striped Grays" or "Yellow Meat" varieties kept in horse troughs of ice water. You could buy by the piece or the whole melon. Our family usually bought one whole after Grandpa thumped it for ripeness and the seller cored it for him. The "Garden" provided slim wooden utensils for eating, but Grandma wouldn't let us use them.  She brought forks and knives from home in a paper sack and carefully counted them before returning to the house.

 

Neither C.J. nor I ever tried to steal a melon, as some of my friends and fellow writers have confessed to.  For example, in far West Texas in the dark of night, a softball team once sought refreshment in a melon patch at night.  When one of them brushed up against a taut wire (was it linked to a shotgun loaded with rock salt or a bell that rang at the farmer’s home?), they panicked and ran, leaving behind a t-shirt emblazoned with the name and logo of the ball team.  When the local sheriff talked to their coach, vows to “sin no more” were taken, as an alternative to prosecution.

 

There are other ways for melons to cause boys to get in trouble.  One writer (we’ll call him Joe) remembers a visit to his Uncle Tom in Oklahoma, who had a large field of watermelons.  Because the soil was sandy the watermelons grew well and were pretty large. Joe and two cousins wanted to eat a melon, but were not sure how to tell which ones were ripe.

 

We knew you were supposed to thump them, but had no idea what sound would indicate the melon was ripe.  So we rolled several melons over and used a pocketknife to cut a little plug out of each until we found one that was ripe.  After enjoying the delicious refreshment, we carefully replaced the plugs in the melons that were not ripe.  I suppose we thought those immature melons would continue to grow and ripen.

 

By the time Uncle Tom noticed the melons that were rotting on the vine and found the plugs, Joe was safely home.  His cousins had to confess and take the tongue-lashing.

 

C.J. made me aware of a way to prolong the enjoyment of watermelon season:  When we purchased a Watermelon Garden melon that had especially thick rind, Grandma would make Grandpa use his pocket knife to trim the rind and then wrap the pale green pieces in wax paper to carry home and be canned. Watermelon pickles were saved for special occasions such as Christmas, Thanksgiving or birthday dinners. 

 

C.J. even located Grandma’s recipe for making the pickles.  With his permission, I will pass on this heirloom recipe to anyone who emails me asking for it.  However, you should bear in mind that the watermelons for sale in your local grocery store are likely to be inferior to the ones available to Grandma.

 

Jerry Lincecum is a retired Austin College professor who now teaches older adults to write their autobiographies and family histories.  Email him at jlincecum@me.com.