Dubuque, Iowa – October 13, 2012
Rain or the late season closed the Cassville farmer’s market. I’m not sure which, but the sign said “through mid-October” so I’m guessing the rain.
Tough times for the town that once aspired to be Wisconsin’s capital until Madison stole their dream in 1836.
They still built a legislature though, and I still got a watermelon.
I found it floating in the river next to a log along the shore a few miles downstream. It’s bright green skin glowed against the dreary day. I picked it up, examined its shell for any breaks, thumped it twice, got a nice hollow return, and put it between my legs in the cockpit of the boat, the only spot with any room left for a giant melon.
I’ve found all kinds of things along the shore of the Mississippi. I found an old milk jug like they use in carnival games at the state fair. I found rusted out cars and bicycles. I found a basketball which I picked up and then lost half-a-day later when it rolled off the boat and floated away again. I even found a turtle float with dozens of insults written all over it in permanent marker, things like “whore,” “prostitute,” and “slut.” I have no idea what that turtle did to deserve all those names, I can only imagine it was enjoying life so much that the other turtle floats got jealous of all the fun it was having.
Jokes on them though, that turtle float is now part of the menagerie and hangs out with Frank the Flamingo all the time.
But this watermelon was a new kind of problem. I love watermelons. I used to eat them a melon at a time when I was a kid. I hollowed them out with a spoon and ate until my stomach swelled and I felt sick. I couldn’t walk past a watermelon without wanting to eat it. Still can’t.
I thought about it sitting in the river. I thought about its unblemished skin. I thought about the nice, crisp thump it made when I hit it with my knuckle.
“I should crack it open at least,” I told myself. “See what it looks like.”
There it was, the heart of it, crisp and red. I didn’t have a chance. I ate a nibble, tasted that sweetness of summer and dug in.