Published on June 30, 2020

Freezing Grandpa’s watermelon was not a good idea

By Roy Edwards
The Bulletin

Early 1950s summertime at Grandpa Ruffo’s farm in Anderson County, a bunch of grandkids were visiting for the summer. We were all trying to stay out of trouble – or at least not get caught.

We figured the best way to stay out of trouble was to steer clear of the adults. With about half of Grandpa Ruffo’s farm being wooded, we had many adventures in the shade of the trees.

Grandpa Ruffo always had one plot of watermelons planted. Now these were not the personal melons or icebox melons of today, but family sized Black Diamond melons – a medium-large-sized Black Diamond melon could top 100 pounds. That hot summer day we decided to have a watermelon party. We got the Radio Flyer wagon from the side of the house and headed for the melon patch.

Using the Ruffo scientific system, we were looking for an almost perfectly round melon with an almost uniform deep green color. We thumped the melon, listening for that deep “drum full of water” sound.

Then, we inspected the stem. If it had started to dry up, that meant that the melon wouldn’t get any sweeter.

Last, we rolled the melon over, exposing the small yellow patch the sun had not reached, and rubbed its bottom (yes, you rubbed the bottom of the melon) – feeling for bumps. The more bumps the melon had, the sweeter the melon.

We finally selected a 60-pound melon – the largest one that fit into the Radio Flyer wagon.
After getting our prize, we dragged it back to the house. We planned to ice it down in a washtub. You need three things when you ice down a Black Diamond melon: a wash tub, ice and rock salt. Well, we had the tub, but no ice - no salt – no money - no transportation. But we still wanted to eat that melon that afternoon. So, we came up with another one of our brilliant ideas. We were going to cool it off in the freezer.

Now imagine six kids trying to get 60-pounds of slick melon with no handles up and over the edge of a chest-type freezer without dropping it. We did it, but it looked like a Keystone Cops silent film. We celebrated our achievement by mixing up a pitcher of iced Cherry Kool-Aid and heading to the front porch to gloat. Someone proposed a new adventure, and off we went – forgetting about the melon.

Just before noon – the next day – one of us remembered the Black Diamond melon. Then came the Keystone Cops movie in reverse.

We finally got the melon out of the freezer and on the back porch. The melon was frozen solid. Off to the kitchen we went for the largest kitchen knife and Grandpa Ruffo’s whet stone. When the knife was shaving sharp, we tried to cut the melon but still couldn’t do it.

Time for the next brilliant suggestion: to get Grandpa Ruffo’s axe and split it open. Out of the barn came the razor-sharp, double-bit axe. We started to surround the melon and hold it in place but decided against it. Someone grabbed the axe and brought it down perfectly centered with enormous force. The axe ricocheted off the melon faster than a John Wayne near-miss. The melon was unharmed – and so were we kids.

Time for another idea.

A screened-in sleeping porch was attached to the back of the house with a half dozen beds for visiting grand kids. “Why don’t we take it in our bedroom, put it under a bed, and let it thaw for a couple of hours,” someone suggested. “Then slice and eat it.”

It was no sooner said than done.

We forgot about our melon until about noon the next day. Lurking under the bed was something that had once been a perfectly round melon. Now, it was half its original height and twice its original diameter. It was sweating blood red tears.

All we had to do was get it outside before the adults found out what we had done. We moved the bed away from the melon. We got as many people around the melon as we could, slid all our hands under the edge of the melon and agreed to lift the melon on the count of three and carry it outside to the chicken yard. So, with 12 hands around the melon, we lifted at the count of three.

Sixty fingers sliced through the now-tissue-thin rind. Red chunks of goop spread out in a 10-foot circle. At that instant, Grandma Ruby walked in. Usually, everybody’s loveable little ol’ Granny, Grandma Ruby was 4 foot-10 inches tall. When she took a step into the room that day, she was a 15-foot-tall velociraptor. She reduced the assembled grandkids to a quivering mass.

We spent the rest of the day scooping, carrying, scrubbing, mopping, sweeping dusting, bed rearranging, bed making and whatever Grandma Ruby “suggested”. She also “suggested” that we never, ever, put a watermelon in the freezer again.

Grandpa Ruffo laughed a lot that day.

(Write Roy in care of The Bulletin. Email: john.bulletin@gmail.com. Snail mail: The Bulletin, PO Box 2426, Angleton TX, 77516.)