Ricky, the dancing dachshund who was begging on his hind legs (all he needed was a tutu and he would fit into a circus) gave up his futile attempt for food and scuttled away. (I wasn’t as nice as my grandparents, who spoiled him with treats from their plates.—I like food.)
“Who’s ready for watermelon?” asked grandpa, as he placed a huge melon on top of the table, twice the size of a normal melon that you see at the store. It was speckled with yellow dots? I thought it was mold, till grandpa said: “It’s safe. They call it moon and stars. There’s plenty of stars, but I don’t see the moon.”
Grandma then sat plates next to him, as grandpa began to slice into the melon with a cutting knife. “You might need a chainsaw,” joked one of my brothers.
“Nah, that would be overkill,” said another, there were four of us boys all together.
“But we are in Matt County,” I defended [closest Missourian county to Arkansas]. They chuckled.
Juices sprayed as grandpa cut the fruit in half. He then separated the melon, placing a half on one of the plates as he sliced the other into pieces.
He gave the first piece to a brother; it covered his entire plate and then some. The seeds alone where as large as pumpkin seeds.
“Need a fork?” I asked him.
“He doesn’t need it,” rejected another. “There’s Scotch-Irish in our blood, plenty of barbarian.”
A plate was then passed to me. Wow! Juices exploded in my mouth as I took a crunchy bite—spitting the seeds onto my plate. “We could have a seed spitting contest,” I playfully suggested.
“You could with those seeds,” said grandpa. The table was surrounded was crunch-crunch-crunch. “Don’t worry about eating to the rime,” he said, “leave some for the chickens. The tops the best anyways.”
“But that’s the healthiest part,” I politely protested. “I heard on the radio that the most nutritious parts of fruit are the rime of the melon, and banana and orange peels.”
“How would you eat it?” asked a brother.
“Probably blend it up.”
“Gross! But I did know a guy who ate the peel with the banana. He was from Africa, and it was a treat for him. He didn’t get it often.”
“Leave some for the chickens,” resaid grandpa.
“A coyote got one [chicken] the other night,” informed grandma. “I was sitting right there too. It was pecking by the orchard when the hound came up out of the woods. I heard the hens madly clucking when I saw it running away with a chicken between its teeth. I ran after it, hoping it would drop it, but there was no dropping it.”
Man! I thought, as I spit out another seed.
We must have been a hilarious site. All of us enjoying our watermelon, the juices covering our faces, some using our hands for a half-moon that was way-to-big for holding, or stabbing it with our forks. I pretty sure I committed one of the seven deadliest sins too—gluttony. My stomach was stuffed after I finally devoured the fruit, yet it had tasted so divine.
I don’t remember exactly how it started, but after awhile, opossum stories arose from the dinner table. Grandpa told the tale of how Ricky had dragged a opossum, that was twice the size of he, around the yard by its tail. A brother then recounted the time when the cat had dragged a baby opossum into the house—still alive! Of how the poor scarred critter had ran behind the bookshelf and dad had to pull it out with his gloved hand. Grandpa then told another story of when he had seen all his chickens roosting on top of fences, trees, the roof of the coop—everywhere but in it? which he thought was odd? He then went into the coop to collect the eggs, and as he reached his hand—he felt fur?! “And chickens don’t have fur,” said grandpa, before he told how he had grabbed the vermin by the tail, flung it out, and shot it, before stumbling to round up the chickens in the dark.
The rimes were collected on a silver platter [literally] before we relocated our conversations outside, sitting in lawn chairs, watching the chickens scavenge for food in the garden, as grandma picked green beans and raspberries. We talked, about: fishing, gardening, hunting, skunks, dogs. Crawfish, June bugs, Branson—we talked, laughed, shared stories as the sun set. It was a more beautiful portrait than one that I could ever paint, like a scene from Charlotte’s Web or Andy Griffith . . . or Duck Dynasty [chuckle, I guess there is a little redneck in me]. Four boys enjoying time with their grandparents. No video games or technology for entertainment, relaxing in the country. Simple, yet marvelous. Enjoy the little things.
We talked, as skeeters attacked our legs, as a bat circled above our heads, as the rooster crowed, as the lightning bugs-fireflies came out to play—as the twinkling stars smiled down on us, from that beautiful country sky.