My Aunt Katie would have turned 97 last Monday. She was the youngest of my father’s siblings, born shortly after the family arrived in south Roosevelt County in 1915 to scratch out a living in the sand hill country.
One of the family’s first crops was watermelons. For most of his life, when we had watermelon to eat, my father loved to remember how hard his family worked to have the first ripe melon ready in time to celebrate his little sister’s early September birthday.
Goodness knows life was not easy out here. Water was hauled from far-flung windmills. Farmers planted on faith, not forecasts.
Growing those watermelons involved a months-long wrestling match with Mother Nature, exhausting rounds that commenced after the last frost of spring and ended with the first nippy nights of autumn.
Such fierce competition must have sweetened those birthday watermelons, because the stories of them were memorable enough to last throughout my aunt’s lifetime, and my dad’s, and now mine.
Don’t misunderstand: I have thoroughly enjoyed every watermelon I’ve eaten since last spring, courtesy of growers and shippers throughout Central America.
But I know, deep-down, they can’t be nearly as good as those first September watermelons, coaxed from the sand and anticipated all summer long, all those years ago.
Betty Williamson loves the cracking sound made when a ripe watermelon is opened. You may reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.