“Lordy, Lloyd. Where’d y’all get all the watermelons?” great aunt Agatha exclaimed.
“Well, helps tuh know the raht people, Agatha.”
Lloyd, who was related in some convoluted way I never understood, had amassed a stack of watermelons higher than his waist and wider than he was tall. The occasion was the who-remembers-how-many year family reunion of some remote branch of Mama’s family.
Lloyd and Miss Linda had a farm that had been handed down in the family since before the state was a state. It covered over a thousand acres of land a couple of miles inland from the Atlantic on some river that I cannot for the life of me remember the name of.
When the Atlantic backed up the river during a big storm, Lloyd and Miss Linda’s farm went underwater. That explained why their house was built on top of big round poles.
“Yes sir, we’ve had six feet of water right under the living’ room,” Lloyd was fond of saying. “All we had to do was pull up that square hatch in the floor, drop in a hook and catch dinner.”
When that happened, Lloyd and Linda might get stranded on the farm for weeks. The only way out was by boat.
On that particular August day, however, the farm was high and dry and every distant relative for miles in every direction was arriving for the big reunion.
“Come on, y’all. We’re loadin’ the wagon with everyone who’d like a ride to see the farm. We’ll be goin’ down to the river. It’s real purdy down by the river this year.”
I hopped aboard. I’d heard about the farm as long as I could remember, but had never seen all the supposed glories that were claimed to be found there. Just before we departed, a car filled with people pulled up close to us.
Of all people. Great uncle Melvin. That creep! I haven’t seen him since I was little.
Great uncle Melvin looked at the wagon on which we were seated, smiled and climbed aboard, squeezing between two little girls. He immediately had his hands on their legs, patting, rubbing, smiling and laughing. Their daddy was busy discussing fishing with some other relative, and paid no attention to great uncle Melvin.
Before great uncle Melvin even noticed I was there, I picked up one of the little girls, sat her on my lap and sat where she had been sitting.
Great uncle Melvin turned to face me, studied me, and asked “Do I know you honey?”
“Oh, yeah. You know me. I’m your great niece Tammy. You haven’t seen me since I was a little girl.”
“I remember you, honey. Well, didn’t you turn out purdy?”
I leaned closer to great uncle Melvin and whispered so only he would hear.
“Yeah, I remember you too, uncle Melvin, and what you do to little girls. Well I ain’t little no more. If you so much as touch me or either of these little girls, I mean even lay one finger on us, I’m going to crush your balls and shove them down your throat. Do you understand?”
Great uncle Melvin’s eyes grew wide. He mumbled something unintelligible, got up and sat in the spot I had vacated. I glared at him during the rest of the ride. I remember weeds, a river, and lots of sandy dirt. But great uncle Melvin kept his distance from me and the two little girls.
When the ride was over, the little girls and their daddy went one direction and great uncle Melvin went another when he saw that I was still watching him. He ambled toward Lloyd and Miss Linda’s house and I rejoined Mama, who was visiting with Miss Linda.
Mounds of fried chicken. Baked beans. Potato salad. Jello salads. Green beans. Collard greens. Pies. Cakes. All of this and more was piled on several picnic tables placed end-to-end. Is there any wonder all those people were overweight? There were a couple of hundred of us, and enough food for four or five hundred.
About the time most people were headed back for a second plateful, Lloyd announced “Anyone want to join me thumpin’ watermelons to find the sweetest, juiciest ones?”
Several dads, about half the kids and great uncle Melvin jumped up and headed around the corner for the pile of watermelons.
What could be great uncle Melvin’s interest in thumpin’ watermelons? Must have something to do with all the kids headed over ther
Back then lots of little girls in that part of the country wore dresses for something special, and a family reunion at Lloyd and Miss Linda’s farm qualified as a special occasion. As I rounded the corner, I saw several little girls leaning over the watermelons trying to thump them like their daddies were doing. Not far behind them stood great uncle Melvin, admiring the view up their dresses as they leaned over.
I quietly walked up behind great uncle Melvin.
“You really do want to eat your balls for dessert, don’t you?”
“Uncle Melvin jumped, turned toward me and said “I ain’t touchin’ nobody.”
“And you ain’t goin’ to either. Not now. Not ever again. If I hear you have, I’m taking my stories to the police of what you did to me and my cousins when we were little.”
“I don’t know what you’re talkin’ about.”
“Yes you do. You touch another little kid, ever, and you’ll die in prison. Do you know what the inmates in prison do to guys like you? It’s time for you to go back around the house to your table and sit down. I’m going to be right behind you. I’m going to be right behind you the rest of the day.”
Great uncle Melvin and his family left early that day. I never saw him again.
Mama called one Sunday and told me great uncle Melvin’s funeral had been a few days before.
“I didn’t call you before the funeral. I knew you wouldn’t go.”
“You’re right, Mama. What did he die from?”
“Someone beat him to death in the town square in the middle of the day in that little town where he lived.”
“Did they find who did it?”
“They say there were no witnesses.”
“In the middle of a fine summer day on the town square? There were no witnesses? Guess justice has been served in a sense. Of course, that’s the way things there get handled sometimes.”
“Sometimes, darlin’. Sometimes.”
“Did the family go the funeral?”
“Of course. Regardless, they’d go to the funeral.”
“Did you go, Mama?”
“Thank you, Mama.”
“Just thought you’d want to know.”