on the bounties of summer

Woah: summer’s hit all of a sudden this morning: and I’m on a fast ramp-up for this weekend: prepping cherries, wild black raspberries, zucchini, peas, and string beans for the freezer, and canning cucumbers for Mama’s lime pickles. It was sure a hell of a lot more fun to do this in Mississippi back in the ’60s and ’70s: out in the yard, under a shade tree the size of one good-sized Yankee barn, straight-backed chairs around a mound of pre-dawn picked sweet corn piled as deep and wide as a little school bus in the middle; cauldrons for blanching off to one side; an assembly-line setup for cream corn and kernel corn and corn on the cob for the freezers; ladies and girls in long dresses and long sleeves and sun bonnets and bare feet: and everybody singing four-part harmony old-time gospel nearly all day long. The horses would hang their heads over the pasture fences waiting for seconds; the dogs and chickens would just take theirs and go. About mid-morning Mama would dispatch me (the oldest) to the field for a watermelon, which we’d set in the well water to cool for a spell, and then we’d all stop for a chin-dripping sweet slice of Black Diamond (with seeds, which is the only, only self-respecting way to ever eat a watermelon!), and then we’d turn back to the work. By dusk we’d have enough corn to feed six families for two years, so my Mama would set in to giving it away, straight off, because that is what you do when you have more than you need for yourself: you give it to somebody else who might need it. She’d do that all year, till most folks hated to see us coming because they were full up to the brim and couldn’t take it no more.

We’d fall into the bed so whupt at night that we didn’t even have gumption for dreams. Now that was one fine way to grow up, responsible for the bounties of summer, living by the crops’ clocks and not ours. I loved it all so much that sometimes I thought my heart might expand outside my skin. Sometimes maybe it did. At least enough that I learned how to love the work, to love the food, to love the chance to serve, to love this life. What a lucky person I have been!

hp watermelon



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