Howard Hewett (2014)
by: Howard Hewett – Submitted September 13, 2014
Our daughter Georgianne called today on the way home for our 4th of July celebration to ask what method is the best to determine watermelon ripeness. She was stopping in Hempstead, TX (Texas Watermelon Capital) to pick up a melon for our 2009 celebration. Her dilemma was which ripeness checking method should be employed. She asked if she should use the Thump Method or the Broom Straw Method. Now, I am not quite sure what the Broom Straw method is, so I directed her to use the “Thump It Method”.
This discussion brought back a flood of memories of Dad’s watermelon patch over on our river farm at Federal Point. In North Carolina, cool spring weather delays the planting of watermelons so it was usually the first of July before our watermelons were ready for the harvest. Dad called his watermelons Georgia Rattlesnakes.
1951 Howard Hewett – 12 yrs – Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelon grown on Hewett patch in Federal Point
Georgia Rattlesnake Watermelons
In doing a little research, I found that there was a type of watermelon grown in Eastern United States starting around 1870 that was named Georgia Rattlesnake. I would not be surprised if some of Dad’s seeds were passed along through the hands of the Hewett- Lewis family using the same method that Dad used.
At the time of planting, a mound (hill) was created to plant the seeds. A typical planting was three seeds per hill along with a little fertilizer. As the plants grew, only the healthy plants were allowed to remain in the hill. Planting was spread out over several weeks so all the watermelons would not ripen at the same time.
As the watermelons developed, Dad started taking notes on the growth of some of the melons in the patch. The largest and best shaped melons were singled out by Dad placing an “X” on the topside with his fingernail. As these melons continue to develop, he would place a second “X” and so on. A three “X” watermelon was a very special watermelon. By selection, the seeds from the three “X” watermelons were used for the next season’s planting.
Normally, XXX melons were not sold, but served to family and friends. The rule when eating a XXX melon was no seeds went on the ground. Dad collected all the mature seeds. They would be washed and dried on a screen. The seeds would end up in a Mason jar and stored for the next year’s planting.
It is interesting that not all one X melons made it to two Xs or two Xs to three Xs. Dad’s marks were based on potential. During the growing season some would not meet his expectations and would be sold for a lesser valve.
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