Partial to Home: Under a watermelon sky


Birney Imes



About a week ago, in the waning days of August, Gerry Jeffcoat gave me a watermelon he'd grown. A Congo Red, he said when asked the variety. Melons occupied a lot of space in his small, raised-bed garden, so I felt lucky to get one of a yield of about eight.


Though a fair size, this melon was shaped like an avocado. No ribbons from the county fair for this girl. But then, we've had plenty of pretty watermelons all summer with ho-hum taste.


Beth and I agreed the Congo was the best watermelon we'd had this year. She, who has a longer taste memory than I, said it was the best she'd had in two years.



Online purveyors of the seeds tout the Congo's high sugar content and large size.


After we were done, I cut the uneaten fruit from the rind and put it in a storage container.


And so it was on a trip north several days later, with the contents of that container in mind, I took Exit 46 on Interstate 65 near Munfordville, Kentucky. Time for a watermelon break.


At the bottom of the exit ramp, as if put there for my convenience, was a gravel road leading up a hill into a small cemetery. It was an odd location for a graveyard, wedged between a sprawling Love's travel oasis and the Interstate. Across the way, as if there wasn't enough ambience already, was a fully tricked-out Harley Davidson dealership.


I parked under an old oak tree and found a comfortable spot to sit. I ate the sweet, dripping fruit and watched as travelers scurried in and out of the truck stop. A hundred yards away Interstate traffic roared northward.


Finished with the melon, I walked over for a closer look at a gravestone that had caught my eye. It resembled a natural piece of stone.


It appeared to be the final resting place of a P. Doyle Brown, born Nov. 10, 1947. Possibly Mr. Brown is still with us as there was no end date on the stone.


There is an inscription: "I knew this would happen. It was fun while it lasted."


Not quite believing my eyes, I read it again.


Fun while it lasted and then to a graveyard next to a Harley shop, no less. Where else but America.


Here's hoping Mr. Brown is still above ground having fun.


Two days later, having arrived at my destination in rural New York, I'm walking down a road overlooking a large lake. It's near the end of the day and the sky looks like a tie-dyed T-shirt, a psychedelic red. Or maybe even a freshly cut Congo Red watermelon.


The music of a rock band rehearsing on the other side of the lake wafts across the water. The air is cool and there is a steady breeze. I pass a hillside bright with goldenrod. Later I stop to admire a perfectly preserved, freshly painted '68 Ford pickup and snap a picture for a daughter who has a penchant for vintage pickups.


Shortly after I pause to watch a group, who appears to be family, at the edge of the lake. One of them is putting a log on a fire on a rock beach. The smell of wood smoke drifts up from the lake.


Even in this most difficult of times, small blessings -- if we choose to see them as such -- are all around us. Appreciation is a powerful anodyne to the ennui and vertigo many of us are feeling.




Birney Imes III is the immediate past publisher of The Dispatch.


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