Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Daddy's Melon Patch

I looked in the fridge this morning and I saw a watermelon.  Mr. Bootsie has purchased one.  We will eat some and share with our feathered friends.  I always have a good feeling when I think about watermelons and cantaloupes.  Daddy always wanted to have the first watermelon, the largest and for his season to last the longest.  There were several farmers he stayed in very close contact with during the watermelon season as he wanted to know how their melon patch was doing.

The garden was planted and there is still this large bare place in the garden.  It was wide about 12 feet and ran the length of the garden.  The soil here was a little bit sandy.  "Daddy, there is nothing planted here."  He told me it was the watermelon patch.  I sure did not see anything growing but he was sure it would have watermelons.  The next Saturday morning the wagon was filled with manure from the hog house.  During the week Daddy had dug holes, in the bare soil, a bushel basket would fit in. The soil was hilled beside the hole.  The hog manure was put into the bushel baskets and carried to the holes.  Daddy would level the manure and pulled the soil back over it.  He was carefully working the soil into a hill and firming it.  This would be done all the way down the row.  Each hill was about 8 feet apart.  He would let the hills set until rain was in the forecast.

The seeds for the watermelons and cantaloupes were saved with a few new added in each year.  Seeds he saved from the sweetest or largest melon.  He would sometimes return home, from having watermelon with a friend, and produce some seeds he has slipped in his pocket.  Momma would always put the seed in an envelope and write on it where they came from and why.  Daddy would make a decision on which seeds would be planted and what would be burned in the wood stove.  If Daddy decided not to plant them he did not want a bird to drop the seed in the garden, so they went up in smoke.

"Come on, Bootsie, it is going to rain tomorrow."  Daddy would have the envelopes and off he and I would go to the garden.  "What are we going to plant first?  Watermelon or cantaloupe?"  The odd number hills were planted with watermelon and the even number with cantaloupe seeds.  There were 6 seeds put in each hill.  Because I was small and learning to count and do arithmetic helping Daddy plant the seeds was a lesson for me.  I could count to five so he told me to put 3 seeds in each hand and that would be 6 seeds.  It worked well for the cantaloupe but when I came to the watermelon I just would get a bunch of seeds and hand them to him.  Daddy looked at me, "What are you doing?"  Six seeds, all I want is six seeds."  "Daddy, I just love watermelon and we need lots of them."  This is a lesson I will never forget.  "Now Bootsie, listen to me.  The ground will only support a few seeds and the plants will be weak if we put in to many, six and I will put out the weak plants.  Never over plant your fields."  That night Daddy planted all of his watermelons and cantaloupes and the rain came.

Daddy hoed the garden and any weeds in the watermelon patch were knocked down.  The weak plants were pulled out and the runners started going everywhere.  The big bare spot in the garden was filled with yellow and white blooms. After which came little round and oblong melons growing everywhere.  Farmers talking, July 4th, first watermelon, 40 pounds, sweet as honey, the rush was on for the first watermelon of the season.  Daddy would just walk thru the melon patch thump on the melons listen to the sound and smile.  He knew when he was going to have the first melon.  My daddy had the biggest watermelon, a lot of the farmers were not growing hogs any longer and there is nothing any better for melons than pig manure.

I saw Daddy go and get the wheelbarrow off the garden he went.  First, he came with cantaloupes and the second trip he had watermelons.  The high table was up in the yard, family and friends were coming over.  That night we had the biggest, sweetest melons in the world.  Everyone was there and Daddy was beaming.  We had one cousin who also was a very good farmer.  After Daddy had cut several melons and everyone was eating, it started.

"Shame you cut that big one.  I just happen to have one in my car that is a lot bigger than the largest one you have here."  He went to his car and brought out this huge watermelon.  Daddy looked at it and smiled that I need to do something about this smile.  Everyone was getting their fill of the melons and starting to talk, children were starting to play, and all of sudden there was total quiet.  Daddy had just come in with the wheelbarrow and in it was the biggest watermelon of all.  A while later in the evening it was cut and yes,  it was also the sweetest melon.

Momma and Daddy loved melons,  Cantaloupe for breakfast, watermelon the rest of the day.  The watermelon rinds were made into pickle and pickled cantaloupe.  The chickens, ducks and pigs enjoyed the melons.  But the biggest pig of all was a little girl who was learning to count.

                              You are going to have watermelons growing out of your ears.
                                       Did you hear the one about the woman who had the watermelon
                                        plant growing in her stomach?        
                                                      How far can you spit a watermelon seed?

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