What the angels eat

Published 2:47 pm Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Have you ever thought about the food up in heaven?

We always hear that there will be no tears or pain in heaven. Does that mean no hunger pangs?

I don’t know if the saints up there have to eat or not, but Mark Twain claimed to have known exactly what the angels ate!

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Here is what he said. “The true southern watermelon is a boon apart and not to be mentioned with commoner things. It is chief of this world’s luxuries, king by the grace of God over all the fruits of the earth. When one has tasted it, he knows what the angels eat.”

Twain mentioned the southern watermelon and I don’t know exactly what he meant by that geographical description. Having grown up here in the great state of Georgia, I have had some mighty tasty watermelons. As the Fourth of July approaches, it brings to mind that the Fourth and watermelons have always gone together.

Historically speaking, there are written recordings of watermelons and vines in the tombs of ancient Egypt as far back as 5,000 years ago. I think I remember seeing a watermelon almost that old in a bin at one of the local stores the other day.

Also, our third president and primary writer of the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson, was a lover of watermelons and grew them on his plantation in Virginia.

Henry David Thoreau, the 19th century American essayist and naturalist, was a great fan of the watermelon.

Speaking of the watermelon, Thoreau said, “I have no respect for those who cannot raise melons or who avoid them as unwholesome.” Careful, Henry David, let’s don’t get too personal.

We never grew watermelons for the market and not too many in the garden either. But, plenty of our neighbors did and, about this time of the year, we would be looking for someone’s patch. I found a wonderful patch the other day.

Actually, it wasn’t a patch. It was a trailer going through town and it was full of huge, Miller County-grown watermelons. The fellow was stopped at an ice machine and I pulled in behind him and asked him if I could buy a watermelon off his trailer. I don’t know if I am just a sentimentalist, but I would rather buy a locally grown melon than one of those that come from Mexico. Who knows how old they are? Plus, they’re probably picked too soon.

“I wish I could sell you one,” he drawled, “but I don’t have a license to sell anything here in Bainbridge.” He looked sad because he was not going to get to sell me a watermelon.

He wasn’t sad.

I was.

I was looking at those long and huge watermelons, the kind with seeds. The wheels on the trailer were pooching out at almost a 45 degree angle, suffering from the great weight of all those beautiful melons. And I wasn’t going to get one because of a “license to sell.”

“I promise you I’m not a city official. I’m not a policeman. I’m not working undercover. I just want one of those beautiful and big watermelons.”

The Bible says, “Thou shalt not covet your neighbor’s house, wife, manservant or maidservant, ox or donkey.”

It does not, specifically, mention watermelon and I was coveting the biggest one on that trailer.

He crooked his neck around just to see if anyone was looking and whispered, “They’re five dollars apiece.” I’ve seen the day when $5 for a watermelon would have been a crying shame, but in this year of our Lord, 2010, I thought nothing of whipping out that Abraham Lincoln.

“I want a good one,” I said.

He saw me looking at that big one and said, “That’s a good ‘un.”

“How can you tell?” I asked. I didn’t want to waste my $5, and I have bought enough bad watermelons in my time to admit my ignorance. Something about this grizzled, old man told me he could pick a good one for me. I wanted the biggest, but would allow him to choose for me.

He walked around to my side of the trailer and began to lay his hands on the melons. His hands were dirty, cut up, and calloused, but he caressed those melons as a mother might caress the bottom of her newborn baby.

I said, “Ain’t you gonna thump it?” I’d seen that before and had even done it myself, although I don’t know why. He kinda smiled as if thumping watermelons was for amateurs.

“Just picked ‘em a few hours ago. All of em’s good.” I took him at his word and picked up that big one I’d been coveting. It must have weighed 40 pounds and turned out to be worth every penny of the $5. However it was much less than the world record for size.

According to my Google search for the world’s biggest watermelon, it hails from Hope, Ark., home of former president Bill Clinton and presidential hopeful, Mike Huckabee. Mr. Lloyd Bright, of The Farm Store, grew one that weighed in at 268.8 pounds. Try throwing that one around!

I remember throwing around a variety called Charleston Grays one day as I helped one of my friends when I was about sixteen years old. It could have been my hardest working day. Charleston Grays are an elongated type melon, not like those round, seedless ones. They mature at a weight of 25 to 30 pounds.

That might not sound too heavy and it’s not if it’s a one-time weight. But try bending over and picking up a big watermelon off the ground and throwing it up into a trailer. Multiply that by thousands of melons and many hours. As the old song says, “Life shore gets tee-jus!”

But all that is forgotten now. That big old watermelon, cut right down the middle was juicy and sweet as could be. The only problem is that I’ve got to find that old man and that trailer again before the Fourth of July. And, as I said last week, I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!