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July Fourth – The Seeds of Greatness

By Bennett Owen

Credit: Tattered and Lost Photographs

"When one has tasted watermelon, he knows what the angels eat."

-    Mark Twain         

Credit: Avaxhome

It was a yearly ritual of my youth. When we arrived at the family picnic site, the watermelons were the first thing I looked for, lying side by side, cooling in the frigid, fast running water of Billings Creek.

Herman Bolman and others eating watermelon. Credit: Oregon State University Archives.  

Tahlequah, Oklahoma. Credit: Library of Congress. 

When I was a kid, July 4th served purposes beyond merely celebrating the birth of our great nation. It was also a family reunion...and the first day day of the year in which the angels allowed us mere mortals a taste of heaven...

Montana, 1940s. Credit: Berry Collection ©  

Montana, 1960s. Credit: Berry Collection ©  

Montana, 1960s. Credit: Berry Collection ©   

"Their (Americans') manner of devouring watermelon is extremely unpleasant. The huge fruit is cut into half a dozen sections of about a foot long, and then, dripping as it is with water, applied to the mouth, from either side of which pour copious streams of the fluid, while...a mouthful of the hard black seeds are shot out in all directions."

-    Frances Trollope--  Domestic Manners of the Americans (1832)         

Texas. Credit: Library of Congress    

Credit: Library of Congress

There's not much room for etiquette at a picnic. One of my Uncles would grab a butcher knife and cut big slabs of watermelon, as thick as a cut of beef. The first bite...the texture...the flavor...the seeds!

Jasper County, Iowa. Credit: Library of Congress. 

Everyone had their own way of dealing with them. Mine was simply to ignore and swallow them. My Aunt Ruth told me I'd soon have watermelons growing out of my ears.  I countered that it would more likely be corn. It took her awhile to see the humor in that.

Dead Ox Flat, Malheur County, Oregon. Credit: Library of Congress

This is the same Aunt Ruth who, in search of dishwashers, tried to lure my young uncles out from their hiding place under a bridge with offers of ‘fresh watermelon’. The temptation was so great that spies were sent out to see whether the offer was truly good or not. Alas it wasn’t and Aunt Ruth did the dishes by herself.

And now they even say watermelon is good for you. Well, if it’s good enough for angels…

Sheridan County, Kansas. Credit: Library of Congress.

"Most of my memories of Texas are of mosquitoes, watermelons, crickets and my brother teasing me."

-    Robin Wright Penn

Credit: PANA

Jasper County, Iowa. Credit: Library of Congress.  

Reader Comments (2)

freelance writer

July 3, 2011 | Unregistered CommenterLourdesFranks

A fine selection of watermelon eating shots!

August 5, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTattered and Lost

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