When I was much younger, about 15, I knew a tall, lanky Dutchman. The Watermelon Man. He owned a small fleet of trucks that hauled produce from Florida and Texas. He was a man of few words. He busted truck tires and rebuilt diesel engines. In the summer his trucks hauled watermelons.
He gave me a job working with these watermelons. He would pick me up at 2:00 A.M., and we would go to the City Market to sell watermelons to hucksters, purveyors, and the wholesale houses at the City Market.
I had long, curly, silly looking hair, and I wore a gold earring. None of that was unusual for the time, but I certainly didn’t look like any of The Watermelon Mans other friends. I listened to Uriah Heep and Black Sabbath, and fancied myself some kind of Grand Wizard with unique knowledge regarding the mysteries of life. I was often up until very late, doing what Grand Wizards did in 1973. 2:00 A.M. very often came very quickly.
A watermelon truck in those days was loaded by hand in the field. The melons would weigh anywhere from ten pounds to thirty five pounds each. The truck would have from around twelve hundred melons on it, up to three thousand or more. People would come by and purchase them from us, to sell to their customers, such as grocery stores and farm markets. You bent over at the waist and pitched these melons to the next person, who pitched them to another person, until they were stacked in the receiving vehicle. And you counted them while you did it. For years after that, I would find myself counting things with out even realizing it. Phone poles, steps, you name it. Later in the morning we would load up our own smaller trucks and go to deliver melons. Sometimes we would unload the rest of a truck into another truck to consolidate them. This was a lot of hard work.
The Watermelon Man had an equally tall, willowy daughter ( men are lanky, women are willowy). She would one day throw a flower pot at me from a second story balcony, but when I first saw her she really seemed like my kind of girl. I used all of the Grand Wizardry powers at my disposal to make her my girlfriend.
One early morning, late in the summer, I sat on the steps of my parents front porch waiting. This night I could not sleep, and the pucker factor was at least ten. The tall, lanky, scary, quiet man who threw truck tires around for fun was coming to pick me up for work. And I did not know for sure if he knew or did not know that his tall, willowy daughter was going to have a baby, and that my scrawny, long haired, play wizard ass might have had something to do with it. I was pretty sure I would simply disappear on this night, never to be heard from again. But he didn’t mention it for hours. He didn’t say anything for hours.
As we sat on the back of a trailer, waiting for a customer, in the near dawn, I informed him that I had found a full time day job, and that I would have to give up the wonderful world of watermelons. He said : “That is probably the best thing to do, given your situation.”
Life went on from there, and it was many years later before I realized that I did not really know this man’s heart, only his image. The Watermelon Man gave me other opportunities later on, and I count him as one of the people who taught me some things about living this life. Thanks, Watermelon Man.