Gardening gone wrong: A juicy watermelon tale

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Don’t forget, Winterville will hold its annual watermelon festival Aug. 22–25th!

Everyone should have a garden. Sadly, my gardener status was lowered to “grunt labor only” as a result of a small gardening mistake I made many years ago. I said I was sorry and promised her it would never happen again. Hey, doesn’t the Good Book say something about forgiving your husband 70 times 7?

My wife has a green thumb and takes pride in her garden. I have pictures in the family photo album of her holding armloads of luscious vegetables.

Since we have been married (38 years), we have always had a garden.

However, in all those years, she has never, and I mean never, successfully grown a watermelon.

Every year, I watch her sweat and toil, and every year the results are the same — a little nothing! She tried so hard, and the one and only watermelon had only grown about the size of a dinky softball.

Back then, she was a big fan of a show called “The Victory Garden.” This show was hosted by a guy who could grow anything. He shared his ingredients of a special mixture of fertilizer guaranteed to make a watermelon grow. Cindy immediately went out and purchased all the ingredients. She applied this awful smelling stuff to Dinky the watermelon, after which she declared this was the “Year of the Melon!” She was certain this special concoction would help Dinky grow. I knew better, but who was I to spit seeds in her face?

Several weeks later, I was out late, due to a planning session at the chamber of commerce. On my way home, I stopped by the grocery store to pick up some pork rinds. As I was walking toward checkout, I noticed along the floor 10 to 20 watermelons. One caught my eye. It was a behemoth, a freak of nature! I knelt and thumped that bad boy. “Bubba,” as I called him, was acoustically perfect, ripe and ready. He weighed 40 pounds if he weighed an ounce. I noticed about 5 inches of green stem with leaves still attached. In my mind’s eye I saw poor little Dinky back home in the garden. I thought, why not? No, I couldn’t, because that would be so bad, and she would never forgive me.

On the other hand, I thought, it would help her feel complete as a gardener. I mean thus far; no homegrown watermelon had ever graced our picnic table.

I strained as I picked up this green freak of nature and hauled him up to the counter. The checkout clerk rang it up and placed a bright, flame red “Sold” sticker on its pale underside. I hefted Bubba into the trunk of my car and headed for home. I was feeling guilty about what I was about to do, but shook it off, in favor of the greater good.

To pull off what happened next required stealth, speed and luck. I eased the car into neutral and drifted with the lights out into our driveway. I silently popped open the trunk. It took all my strength to get Bubba out.

Beads of sweat trickled down my forehead as I moved like a navy seal toward the garden; with pen light firmly clinched between my teeth. I felt alive and knew I was doing a good thing.

I reached the garden and found Dinky, yanked him off the vine and chucked him down over the hill. Slowly, I eased Bubba into Dinky’s place and gingerly placed the vine exactly where Dinky once was. “I am doing a good thing I whispered to myself. You are a good husband…”

A week went by and due to rain, Cindy had not gone into the garden. Finally, she did, and there followed a loud “Yee Haw!” that reverberated across the neighborhood. She came running into the house and said, “I did it! I did it!” “Did what babe?” I asked.

“I finally grew a big watermelon … come and look, you won’t believe it, honey. I knew that fertilizer would work!” she said.

It was all coming together, just as I had planned. She leapt into the garden and held Bubba tight like the Prodigal Son. I said,” I am proud of you honey, I knew you could do it!”

Cindy decided to pluck him up and bring him into the house for all to see. Bubba was heavy and the only thing she could do was roll him over. There to my horror I saw my one small gardening mistake. I forgot to take the bright flame red “Sold” sticker off Bubba’s pale underside. “Lord, have mercy on me,” I thought, “I am a dead man!”

Thank goodness, my sweetheart has a great sense of humor. We had a good long laugh. So today, I am just a grunt who waters and weeds in the garden under the supervision of any child in the house.

See you at the Winterville Watermelon festival!

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