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Saturday, April 26, 2014

W is for Watermelon

It was a lazy summer afternoon.  The Texas heat was almost unbearable with the humidity sitting at 98% and the thermometer matching it.  Of course, we wouldn't really realize the full impact of the heat and humidity until we were grown and had traveled to other dryer places in the country.  To us, as kids, this was just summer and it was hot.  We thought it was like this everywhere.

We loved the three-month summer vacation except for working in the fields.  Any kind of work was miserable in those conditions.  Sometimes even play could be miserable so most of the time we just sweat, drank tons of ice tea from mason jars and tried to ignore it.

Looking back on this, I’m not sure what was so great about summer vacation because we were stuck on the farm, but I guess we preferred it to being stuck in the classroom.  Most of the time we all enjoyed each other’s company and would entertain ourselves in many ways.

“Oh look at that one!” my sister, Scherri, exclaimed.  “It looks just like a face.  See the nose and the chin is right there.”

“Yeah, yeah I see it and there’s a giraffe,” I chimed in. His head is above those trees over there, to the right of the face.  See the long neck over to the left?

“Duh, yeah,” she said.

“Oh look, there’s a rabbit forming over there,” my sister, Bonni, sounded excited as she joined the conversation, “see the ears coming up?”

We were lying on the grass in the backyard watching the clouds form shapes as they rolled by.  Most days the sky was a brilliant blue and there were many big, cumulous clouds to be seen everywhere.

We were sticky from the heat and itchy from the grass, but this was one of our favorite pastimes and a good way to take a break from all the childhood games we invented.

After breakfast, we had walked up the dirt road, past our grandparent’s house, to the highway to watch the cars go by.  One of our games was to pick a certain color of car for that day and we had to watch the road until that color went by.  Once it did, we could go home.

The chickens clucked and scattered as we walked by, pecking at some invisible seed in the dirt and gravel, like they did all day everyday.

About an hour later, an old red car passed by on its way to town.  That was today’s color, so we headed home and found our tin cans and pieces of window screen and spent the rest of the morning sifting dirt we had gathered from the ditch and the front yard.

The black dirt had such an earthy smell about it.  It started out as clods in different sizes, so we would sift for hours to get it real fine and then make our mud pies.  Sometimes we would mix some hay in to make it different and then lay them out in the sun to dry.

Beads of sweat clung to our upper lips and rolled down our cheeks as we sifted and sifted.  The air was so still.  Every now and then, a welcome little breeze came along which felt oh-so-good, in spite of the fact it carried with it the usual farm smells of the chicken coup and the cow pasture.

During the summer months, the clouds could darken quickly and a cool brisk breeze would start up.  We would all go outside on the porch to cool off.  The rain would pelt the place in gigantic drops.  These quick thunderstorms didn't last long, but were such a relief from the heat.  Then afterwards, when it was over, it was hotter than ever.  The ground would steam and it wasn't long and it was dry and dusty again with the cracks that formed on the top layer of that black dirt giving it the appearance that it hadn’t rained for months.

Now, as we older girls lay and watched the clouds roll by, we made chitchat and wondered when Daddy would be back from town.  He had gone with Papaw, after breakfast, to take care of some business.  When he came back, we were going to cut into a couple of big watermelons.  They were from the garden and chilling in the bottom of the icebox.

While still lying in the grass, we looked around and saw the old, wood picnic table and benches, which is where all nine of us would gather later, laughing, talking, and eating watermelon.  A big pecan tree, with its spreading branches, shaded part of the small back yard. Beyond that was the pasture with its fence posts and barbed wire to keep the cows in.

The back door to the house was open and it revealed a long hallway, which was part of the addition to the house when the bathroom and a bedroom were added.  We knew later on that there would be a line in that hallway as we waited to use the bathroom.  That was one thing about watermelon, but the inside bathroom was a definite improvement over the outhouse.

When we were younger, our parents allowed us to strip down to our underwear to eat that juicy watermelon.  The three of us had to laugh as we thought about stripping down to our undies.

The juice was sticky and sweet, dribbling everywhere.  Then you could hose yourself off.  It was so much easier.  Now this privilege was only for the younger kids.

“I wonder if we have time for a quick game of jump rope or hide and seek.”  Scherri wanted to know what we thought.

Before we could answer, we heard the old pink and white station wagon sputter to a stop in front of the house and we knew Daddy was home.

We got up and brushed ourselves off as we walked around the house, which stood up on cement blocks.  Some of the old, brown fake brick siding was peeling off in places.

Everyone was gathering by the green front door.  The funny thing about that is that it was one of the few things ever painted in that house.  As an adult, it makes you wonder about this, but as kids, we just accepted it and never thought to ask why the rest of the house was bare wood two by fours.

We just took joy in the simple things and our mouths were already watering at the thought of that watermelon.

We laughed, cried, and generally made the best of all situations, whether it was games, watching the clouds roll by, or eating watermelon and then standing in line waiting for the bathroom, making each other laugh to see who would wet their pants.


  1. Those sound like some great memories. I don't remember making so much of a mess eating watermelon that clothes couldn't be worn!

    1. Stephanie,

      I bet you didn't grow up on a farm either. That watermelon was very juicy and we made such a mess that instead of having lots of clothes to wash, my mother decided we could strip down to our underwear until we got older. That way she could just hose us off. We made a competition out of almost everything.



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