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Musk Melons

Musk Melons

Stopping for a Good Melon
Parable of the Melon Patch

New Car: “There, that’s the place, stop here. They told me it isn’t fancy, but you can get a good melon here. It really is a rundown place beyond run down not even a good shack. Oh, look at that old dirty man, gives me the pervs.“

Man: “Welcome how can I help you?”

New Car: “Want a nice musk melon to take to my folks. Oh, they do love melon. People at the café said you sold good melons.”

Man: “I’ve been raising melons for a while now, reckon some of them in town folks have a had a few good ones. Muskmelons in those bins, ones on the right are the biggest, all are ripe should be good. ”

New Car: “The folks in town said you’d raised melons all your life, so I suppose you should be good at it, if you’re ever gonna be.”

Man got to thinking on how everyone had their own melon test: smell, thump, color, and wanting to see if they’d float, plus a few odd ones.  He’d seen plenty of methods in his life. New Car seemed busy sorting and looking.

He thought on that yes it had been his whole life. Selling produce to get the taxes paid and get through the winter on three and half acres, 3.55 acres to be exact at least in the county’s reckoning. He was raised here helped his pa raise produce, learned to start’em early, rotate sections, when to weed, when to till, when to pick’em.

Melon Stand

All those years since old Fanch gave Grampa this little tag off of his land and the house Grampa had lived in most his life.  Grampa worked for ole Fanch all his life.  Just a little benevolence or maybe just a fair trade, Grampa was almost partner at least in managing and carrying the work load.  He started selling melons at a stand with his kids running it.

Pa had kept it going even while working for old Fanch. He worked raising produce at home. Old Fanch died probably ten years after Grampa.  Everyone helped, Pa and Ma all us kids, ran it while I was growing up. Pa kept working for Young Fanch until he decided to pull up and sold the farm. New folks were different Pa quit working regular then. Pa had some day work and seasonal stuff.  Everyone was helping make ends meet, even my own family once I married, had kids.  I had decided to take over. I guess I always loved growing things. Near the end Pa kinda just sat out at the stand rolling Prince Albert into OCB papers, pretty well played out couldn’t do much else.

Least my kids got out high school gratuated. They knew how to work, too. They done alright. Well Sonny he has never had much luck with women, a real string of floozies who are always moving on.  He done good in the Army, but not so with women. He talked of getting twenty coming back, but not now. Other boy and the girl doing alright both at work and are strong on family. The girl she live close with her three kids helping out at the busy times. My middle boy big time job off in the city, he was a real smart bookish type.   I had the night security job at the plant while they were in school.  Lasted until they closed the plant down. I just went in at night came back in morning. Allowed me to do garden stuff in morning then sleep some. I had to work with crops until time to go back to work. I was one of the last turned out; I had to be kept on until everything worth selling or moving was gone.  I don’t know why they closed us. It looked like the boys and some gals did all right by’em, but I supposed some place else was cheaper for them to operate.

My city son his boys come out for two or three weeks in the summer both work hard. Youngest loves to run the stand, got me some new ideas from him. Changing the way we display and price things which made us a little more. He’s the one got me to sort melons by size. He’s the one decided how big to cut the holes in what he calls the sorter. Looks like outhouse seats to me, so Ma don’t like what I call it.  My city son married a rich woman; he met at school. They both came here to announce they were getting married. She was nice about it. I said Ma and me wished them all the best. They insisted we come to the wedding just a simple chapel service. We said we wouldn’t want to be an embarrassment. They insisted we was going and had all arranged everything; bought Ma a nice dress and me a suit. Guess it will look good at my funeral; Ma got it all stored nice and safe.  I said to my son sorry not to hold up next to her folks with all the money and stuff.  He said not to think that. It was her empathy for his folks and insisting on his family being a part that made him sure she was the right choice. He said I had a lot to be proud of, all the good things I raised, three kids, just a lot to be proud of.  My, my, that younger one of his boys he’s a real pitchman. When it comes to selling he’s a real frazzlelooper.

Leaping Deer

James Keefe photo

I suppose in school we always razzed the smart kids like my son, don’t know why. Guess, we didn’t want them to think they was any better than us. Sometimes good people do get important jobs.  People can do a lot of good when smart folks have some sense, like that oldest Everret. Everrets were neighbors to Old Fanch’s place and good bunch to neighbor with. If it weren’t for what the oldest Everret done I would probably have lost everything and been a lifer in jail, after the incident. Ma always says don’t talk about the incident.  I got the penitentiary fence round the farm now, not around me. I was chasing them long eared varmits out of the melons when two uniformed fellows showed up to arrest me for hunting deer out of season and unlawfully discharging a firearm. I was protecting my melons not hunting them jumping orangatans. One was from conservation and the other sheriff’s office. I suggested they help and not get in the way. I don’t remember much after that. The sheriff’s deputy whacked my head with his club; he claimed I was threatening them with my shotgun. I was taken to the hospital and then had my door guarded until a hearing, since I was under arrest. The oldest Everret had gone to lawyering school and now was a judge. After I was well enough I was brought in for a hearing. All these charges were read off against me. Attempted murder of officers in the line of duty, resisting arrest on down to hunting without a license. The States Attorney he wants some huge bail considering the severity of the crimes. Then Judge Everret asked if I had an attorney. I said McGrew did my father’s will and I guess his son was my lawyer now. I didn’t really think I done nothing wrong them thieving jumping giraffes destroyed all my melons. Judge Everret sat there all calm and official, then he asks is Mr. McGrew present with you today? I said I was in hospital and I didn’t call him. I didn’t figure I done nothing wrong. Judge Everret paused me and said I will accept that as entering a plea of not guilty.  The court will contact Mr. McGrew. The States Attorney he gets to arguing for more money than I ever sees for a bail, then says it’s seeing I‘s a flight risk. I only took one airplane flight; it was for that simple chapel wedding which were the fanciest thing I ever saw. Anyway while I’m trying to figure how I’m a flight risk, Judge Everret stopped him dead in his in tracks, and says the defendant ain’t never been more than ten mile from here in his whole life and that pick up truck of his has never run above 45. He released me with out bail. He actually said a lot more and used fancier words than that, and I decided it best not to mention the wedding trip as I had no idea how to get an airplane ticket anyway. While the States Attorney is getting all red in the face, the Judge says after consulting with Mr. McGrew he will schedule an evidentiary hearing or something like that, and then he told me go home, stay out of trouble, and not to shoot at anything even if aliens invaded. I said yes Sir.

What Mr. McGrew who I had never met, only his retired father, told me later was when Judge Everret called  him in to assign him the case he asked had McGrew ever tried such a case. McGrew had not. Judge Everret said I think you should contact this man. McGrew told me he was one high powered attorney with a big firm. McGrew told Everret a man like that would never talk to him, and no one could afford him. Judge Everret suggested he tell him, “I think he’ll find this one an interesting case.” Everret was his best friend at law school. Well, he consulted McGrew so good it never went to court; the state and county dropped the charges and settled a threatened suit by building this high chain link fence around my farm. McGrew said the two officers and then the county attorney when called had done lots wrong. I thanked Judge Everret when I saw him a couple of years later. He said it was one case where justice was served with no court appearances.

Pickup Truck

A county commissioner thought the fence should be added as an improvement since the county paid for half of the fence, but the assessor fellow says he checked no other fences are added to anyone else’s property values. Yep pay tax each year must be when the total taxes reach the whole value of the place you pass on, then it is the next generations’ and they continue on paying.  Well you have to scrape by in this lifetime.

He heard New Car say:  “Oh melon man, I got this from the large bin but it’s a small one more a medium. I think you should take off fifty cents.”

Man: “well it didn’t fit through the sorter, but it is a smaller large one – I suppose you can have a 50 cent break”

New Car: “Good I knew you’d want to do right by your customers”

Man: “Stop back the next time you’re through,” as he watched her hustle back into their car.

New Car: “We need to get going this melon will smell up the car. Dirty old man I hope people don’t bring their kids out here. I would get the chills if I had kids with me. I don’t know how people like these kind get by. I guess some people know how to play the angles while folks like us pay the fare.


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Forgottonia is a place where you can endlessly wander the lonely roads, and never once miss the fast lane. The name Forgottonia captures an image of a region, off the beaten path, which is very true of Western Illinois.

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