September 24, 2021 at 6:16 p.m.
They are eating watermelon, of course, and are doing it the right way: outside and standing up. With this method, you can spit the seeds wherever you please and no one makes fun of the river of melon juice that’s tumbling down your chin.
Nothing says summertime like a cold, sweet watermelon. When you think about it, watermelon is a mysterious and sensuous fruit. It’s mysterious in that it somehow manages to store vast amounts of water even as it roasts in the hot summer sun. And no one can deny the shape of a watermelon is somewhat sensuous, with its voluptuous curves and its smooth, glistening skin. There’s also the rumor that I heard, as schoolkid, about a lady who became with child after accidentally consuming a watermelon seed.
More watermelons are grown in Forestburg, South Dakota, than any other place in the state. It’s the region’s melon mecca. I don’t why this is. Perhaps some pioneering wayfarer paused at the place that is now Forestburg to eat a melon and the seeds he spat out took root and an industry was born.
Late one summer when I was in my early teens, my uncle, Coke, motored out to Forestburg and returned with a pickup truck loaded with assorted melons. He then drove around our neighborhood to peddle his fresh fruit.
Coke’s pickup was still about three-quarters full when he came to our farm. Dad contemplated what appeared to be a metric ton of bargain-priced cucurbits as his eight salivating offspring peered wolfishly into pickup’s bed. Dad told Coke he would take the whole shebang.
Our family suddenly acquired a melon-centric diet. We could have cantaloupe for breakfast, honeydew for dinner and watermelon for supper – which many of us did. Even so, as autumn approached it became apparent we wouldn’t be able to eat our way through the entire trove of melons.
Dad suggested we stash some of the melons in the granary’s oats bin. He reasoned that they would thus be protected from the frosty temperatures, and we could draw upon our watermelon stockpile well into the winter.
We buried several watermelons deep in the oats and there they remained, undisturbed, until one snowy early-winter day.
It was a weekend, and I was bored. Out of the blue, I was struck by an inspiration. I whispered to my brother, Kevin, who is a year younger than me, that we should sneak out to the granary and bring forks.
We slipped into the granary and dug through the oats until we found a watermelon. It was an uncommonly large specimen; it appeared to be roughly the size of a zeppelin.
We took the watermelon a safe distance from the oats bin and cut it in two. I handed half to Kevin, and we wordlessly began to stuff our faces with the ruby-red, delicious, ice-cold melon flesh.
It wasn’t long before I began to feel quite full. I could see Kevin was slowing down too, but neither of us wanted to be the first to admit it. We were locked in a silent melon-munching battle.
I would make a show of eating a large forkful and Kevin would retaliate by downing an even bigger one. My stomach felt as if it were about to burst, spraying masticated melon all over the granary.
Just when I thought Kevin was ready to call for a truce, he made an outlandish move: he lifted his bowl-shaped half of the watermelon to his lips and he drank the juice.
Kevin had thrown down the gauntlet. Had there been a soundtrack in the granary that day, the theme from “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly” would have been playing.
I had no choice but to respond by drinking my juice. We spent the afternoon clashing like titans, trading blow for blow as we ate the whole watermelon in one sitting – that is, except for the short breaks we had to take to let out some watermelon juice.
Our tussle ended in a tie. We staggered from the granary feeling somewhat dazed, walking gingerly as our bellies sloshed from side to side. I suddenly felt a great deal of empathy for extremely pregnant ladies. Many hours would pass before I could again breathe normally.
That watermelon was certainly good. Eating the whole thing in one sitting was bad. And what it did to our digestive systems was downright ugly.
Jerry is a recovering dairy farmer from Volga, South Dakota. He and his wife, Julie, have two grown sons and live on the farm where Jerry’s great-grandfather homesteaded over 110 years ago. Jerry currently works full time for the Dairy Star as a staff writer/ad salesman. Feel free to E-mail him at: [email protected].