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Freeze Frame: Watermelon memories




Birney Imes



Just before 2 o'clock Tuesday afternoon, a car carrying four people pulled into the drive of Johnny Gilmer's watermelon stand on Wolf Road. Two men and two women got out. The youngest of the group, in his late 50s, was wearing overalls; the others looked to be late 60s and 70s. They were hoping for yellow-meated melons. Gilmer had two left in a trailer full of freshly picked red-meated melons, and Elizabeth Hill, who runs the stand for Gilmer and could pass for Ellie Mae Clampett's little sister, took their money. 


The older man, Darrel Martin of Nashville, wanted to talk about growing up around Texarkana in the Red River Valley working in the cotton fields. 


"When we would hoe that cotton the second time, we would plant watermelon seeds," Martin said. "Nothing like it to be picking cotton in late August and finding one of those watermelons. We would bust it open and take a handful of the heart." 


Martin, who is 76, paused a moment while he retrieved that time and place -- he reckons he was around 16. He's retired after 46 years as a meteorologist with the National Weather Service. 


With Martin was his wife of 56 years, Elizabeth Cline Martin, who grew up in Columbus, Blanche Bobitt and her son, Frankie. Blanche is Aubrey Nichols' older sister. Years ago Martin coached Frankie when he played Little League baseball for Fletcher Motors at Propst Park. The families have been friends since.  


"And if you had cotton in your sack ... " Martin wasn't done yet, "you could sit on it while you ate that watermelon. It was good stuff, hard to beat." 


Same could be said for being able to spend a piece of a summer afternoon standing under a shade tree talking to folks buying watermelons. 


--Birney Imes


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


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