“As a Gulf Coast gal living at the Southern-most edge of Sweet Home Alabama, I am mightily blessed. Just a few miles inland from the Gulf of Mexico, Baldwin County sports some of the most prodigious farmland in the entire country. The black dirt fields lining miles of two-lane country roads yield luscious summer harvests including Silver Queen corn, soybeans, and acres of red-skinned new potatoes grown by farming families for generations. Sprinkled among these large tracts are private homes on a few acres, many of them sporting wonderful kitchen gardens full of okra, home-grown tomatoes, all kinds of peas and pole beans and almost always, there is a gorgeous watermelon patch, slap on the edge of the property, next to the road.
As a mischievous teen, it was common practice for my “pack” of pals to dare each other to poach one of the huge succulent melons peeking through shiny green ribbons of vines, when passing a patch. Chain smoking Tareytons and slurping Icees, we’d inevitably spot a row of ripe melons and one of us would holler, ‘Stop the car!’ The bravest of the bunch or in hindsight, maybe the baddest, would sprint into the field and snatch the best looking, most humongous melon she could find. Then, we would high tail it down the road, our adrenaline pumping in fear, relief, and heavenly anticipation.
Straight to a friend’s home on Mobile Bay we would speed, sneaking around the outside of the house to the end of their pier. There were no knives, plates, napkins or finery. Just a gray weathered walkway and a ripe melon. With childlike delight, we simply dropped that melon onto the pier, ‘bustin it wide open’ and scooped the brilliant red fruit out with our bare hands, plucking the sweet fruit promptly in to our salivating mouths. Oh my! The taste was sublime. Super sweet yet sill warmish from the constant midday sun in the field, it quenched our parched throats. The juice, sliding down our arms to our elbows and covering our chins, was the badge of courage we wore for our stolen treasure. Afterwards, full of watermelon and even more full of our young selves, we would jump into the Bay, washing away the sticky and frolic in the warm brackish water for hours, telling secrets and sharing the dreams that teenage girls dream. To this day, a bite of watermelon immediately takes me back to the wild and crazy girl I once was and just for a brief moment, I stop and bask in the glow of this honeysweet memory without a care in the world.”—LUCY BUFFETT, author, restaurateur & entrepreneur. Hometown: Mobile
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