It wasn’t where they were grown – whether Smith County, Mississippi; Hope, Arkansas or his grandpappy’s patch.
My friend is now in his 80s but he was about the age of Tom Sawyer and Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain’s tricksters.
Back in the days before modern food distribution, a couple of his older Memphis pals would take a dump truck to Florida before the peak season in Mississippi and bring back a load to the Delta.
Any self-respecting Southerner knows how to select just the right watermelon.
Using your the thumb and middle finger, you simply thump the melon.
There is a certain sound to listen for. I can’t remember what that was. Sort of a ripe sound, I suppose.
But my friend would have none of that from his customers.
These were special watermelons.
Why, they were milk fed.
That’s what my friend, Joe Dickey, told them.
Maybe they bought into it, or maybe they were dying for one of those green-striped beauties, which you couldn’t get that time of year in those parts.
“I seem to remember that the ‘milk-fed’ came into play as a response to questions as to price. It did not seem to matter that these melons came to them practically at their front door and all the way from Florida!”
If you’ve ever seen a thumper go through a pile of melons, you know how long that takes. And the lads were hustling in both senses of the word.
After selling out, the older boys would make another trip south, and come back with a load for the Delta and pick up their young marketing genius. Who later owned radio stations, which are known to sell a few things.
Joe, a walking Southern story, may have come by his imagination natural.
He doesn’t know, or probably much care, whether he’s related to the famous late poet James Dickey.
But you’d swear they were from the same patch.
There is a strong – I want to say genus – resemblance. Both were football players in college – the poet at Clemson University, my friend at Tulane.
But more to the point, they have (had in the case of James, as he left us nearly 20 years ago) flat noses.
The Flatnose Dickeys. You know, like the Flathead Indians.
Maybe football gave that to ‘em, or at least enhanced a natural attribute. But otherwise they looked like brothers.
But I am getting far afield, I’m afraid.
At any rate, we are approaching the High Holy Day for the watermelon.
The Fourth of July.
It’s time to pick a good one. Am I going to tell you how to do that? No, I’ve lost the secret, as I said.
You can check the Internet, but you might find a method, as I did, that has 14 steps.
A watermelon is like life. It’s mysterious. You just open it up and eat it.
And then it’s gone.
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal staff writer Jack Weatherly at firstname.lastname@example.org or (601) 364-1016.
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