I’ve seen you in the grocery store and I’ve watched as you’ve tried your best to act like you know what you’re doing.
The “you” is a collective term. You are men and women trying to select the perfect watermelon.
I’ve seen you thump, slap, sniff and shake watermelons.
I haven’t seen anyone listen to one, but I’m sure there’s somebody out there who will tell you that listening is the key to selecting the best melon in the supermarket crate.
My mission today is to give you some expert advice because I think I know a thing or two about watermelons.
I grew up in East Texas where the watermelon was the king truck crop.
And I spent two summers doing hard labor in watermelon fields for 75 cents an hour.
My first step is to gently slap a melon.
I’m a slapper, not a thumper. If I hear what I think is a dull thud, then I can go to the next step.
That’s when I check the melon for bruises, dents and soft spots.
Next, I check the melon’s belly. If it’s cream- or yellow-colored – not white – then I probably have a keeper. Next step, put it in my shopping cart.
I’ve had pretty good success with my recent watermelon selections.
However, I didn’t share my so-called expert advice with great confidence because I made a rookie mistake today.
I bought a watermelon this afternoon and thought I had made a pretty good choice until I got home and was carrying it through the front door.
I was easily carrying the watermelon in my left hand and my work satchel in the other.
That’s when I realized that I had probably made a bad choice at the Rockwall Walmart.
I’ve read that watermelons are about 92 percent water, so a good melon should be a heavy melon.
This was a lightweight melon. Not a watermelon, but probably just a plain ol’ dry, tasteless, chewy melon.
Please stay with me through this presentation because I’m going to cut my melon purchase in a few minutes. But first, some for real helpful information.
Most of the bigtime growers are putting stickers on their melons these days. The stickers give you the who and where information about the grower.
I automatically reject melons from any location outside Texas. Thumbs up to Texas. And I got so excited a week or two ago when I found crates of supermarket melons from Rusk County, my home county.
The Rusk County watermelon had to be good and, yes, it certainly was. Thank you very much.
If you know absolutely nothing about choosing a perfect watermelon — even after reading my contribution in this space — stand by the supermarket watermelon crates until somebody comes along and puts on a good act that they know what they’re doing. Then, ask for their help.
How do you recognize a genuine melon expert? The real deal is a man in his 70s who is wearing bib overalls and a John Deere cap. You can’t fail. Good luck with that one.
Experience has taught me to stay away from these big, fancy fruit stand businesses that have colorful flower baskets hanging out front and bright red tomatoes that greet you when you walk inside.
There’s one of these businesses on Highway 80 between Terrell and Longview.
Beautiful flowering hanging baskets, beautiful fruit, but the worst watermelons on God’s green earth.
My son-in-law and I have fallen victim to poor recommendations from the person in charge of the business.
My advice is to find a roadside stand, like the one I pass several times a week in Caddo Mills. Let them recommend a watermelon. For the last two summers, I’ve bought excellent watermelons at that location.
After you eat that good one, then become a return customer. Oh, and if you happen to get a bad one, don’t return. It’s as simple of that.
I believe they will treat you right though. These smalltime farmers need your business and I believe they appreciate your business.
Now, it’s time to cut that melon I bought a few hours ago. Don’t leave me. I’ll be back in a few minutes.
I’m back and I knew I was in trouble when I stuck the knife in the middle.
It was hard, like I didn’t have a ripe melon. And after I got it started, it didn’t crack open. You know what I’m talking about.
When the meat of the melon was finally exposed, it was red. Maybe I made a good choice after all.
But the real test is in the tasting. Wife Becky will tell me it’s the best melon she has ever had even when it’s not.
But today, I had to command Becky to be honest with me. Please don’t be afraid of disappointing me. I’m writing about this experience and I’ve got to have the truth.
Just as I expected. Becky reported that it was chewy and not so sweet. She said it tasted like it wasn’t ripe. It was my worst melon purchase of the season.
`Now, for my final piece of advice.
If all else fails — especially if you can’t find the senior farmer in bib overalls — select a watermelon, then pull a coin out of your pocket.
Heads, this is the melon you should purchase. Tails it is not.
Sometimes, even with the advice of a so-called expert, that’s the best and safest way to go.
Jim Hardin is a reporter for the Royse City Herald-Banner. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org