A slice of Smith County Watermelon

by A. Paige White

It grew in the shadow
of an American Idol's death
Blistering in hundred degree heat
and a cloudless sky holding no rain
for a month or so

Idolatry is a murderer
Michael Jackson could tell you
If it hadn't killed him
when it stole his rest
from what I've read

We've started decorating for the 4th
Our Smith County watermelon is chilling
Serenaded by homegrown monks
we ceremoniously begin to raise the flag

We've already heartily contributed to the regional tradition
you dicker with your melon dealer
for a better price by lauding such savory fruits
paying homage to one so worthy of true fame

No danger of anything injected, Wayne
We know the roads to ride and watch them
swelling in the field
and you know if any growers would tinker like that
flirting with modern temptations promising improvement

In my preteens and teens
I've spent large portions of summer vacation
In those sweltering fields turning the vines for plowing...
In this region, covering at least a five county area
it doesn't matter that you grew off 20+ acres of your own
you still are expected to go get a few
Smith County watermelons

Back in the day, somewhere in my twenties
You needed several
You needed a couple to take to the swimming hole
where you would be sitting around picnicing
with people you grew up with
Every couple having the mandatory cooler of beer
Knowing full well you were going to be required to go to Church
the next day
You've got to repent sometime, somewhere
May as well be down at the church house
with all the rest of the sinners
and you needed a couple as chilly as the possibility of a
4th of July without a
Smith County watermelon for after church

While you're eating this year's Smith County watermelon
the unstoppable reflex takes over to reflect on earlier year's
Smith County watermelons
...remember when they grew rings
... remember when it popped open before the knife was 1/3 through the rind
... remember when it took two kitchen towels to soak up the juice

Red sold us our first
Smith County watermelon this year
while we caught up on his four children
ages ranging 2 to 11
and a blazing red sunset burned just above the treeline behind him
He told us with tears in his eyes about the call he got yesterday
when the little one year old from Martinville got ran over...
running waves of chills from my spine directly to my arms
to race on out to the ends of my hair
while I told him that is where my 8 month old grandson lives...
freshly in awe of the fortitude needed of all first responders...

When you drive the wrecker for the most used service in our hometown
you see all the worse of the worst

We exchange mutual recognition of potential brevity
for us all
while I trail my fingertips and eyes
over the line of melons reachable from the side of the truck bed
filled with our local wonders
We take turns letting our eyes slice each melon
while sweeter fruit of hometown living is savoured

Down here it's just how you eat
a slice of Smith County watermelon
on the 4th of July


Author's Note: Wayne Tate's comment on the MS #1 ranking thread in the forum sharpened my appreciation for the sweetness of downhome, homegrown, fruit injected with life. And yea, eating well is a popular religion for some and a popular benefit for others...

Posted on 07/03/2009
Copyright © 2022 A. Paige White

Member Comments on this Poem
Posted by Clara Mae Gregory on 07/03/09 at 12:30 PM

Wow, Paige. wow.

Posted by Maude Curtis on 07/03/09 at 03:07 PM

This takes me back to my childhood on the fourth of July we would always buy our 1st watermelon of the season. So sweet and wonderful and the man in the truck would "plug" it so you got a preview of the sweetness awaiting you at home. Thanks for the memories.

Posted by Kristina Woodhill on 07/04/09 at 02:02 AM

Love the down-home, honest tone to this - a real place where people share the good and the sad, and who can resist a finely grown watermelon!

Posted by Joe Cramer on 07/06/09 at 12:34 AM

... such a wonderful write Paige... so very poignant.....

Posted by Glenn Currier on 08/19/09 at 06:19 PM

God, this is so ripe with meanings. You transported me south to the fields, the folk, the fruits of the town. I love the way you mix sober reality of death with the life sparking between people as they experience the fruits of culture, friendship, and earth.

Posted by Glenn Currier on 08/19/09 at 06:21 PM

Enjoyed the pics of the Watermelon Festival. Grins. So rich.

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