Planting in honor of Uncle Jack

It’s best we avoid the news, although we do check in once in the morning and once in the evening for weather and to make sure we’re not in a world war. We’ll get the alert on our phones in case of tornadoes, and we can’t do anything about that, either. It’s time to focus on positive things.

For the last two weeks, I’ve been dreaming of eating a ripe cantaloupe. So, on a note of hope, I paged through the Burpee seed catalog and decided to order some Ambrosia cantaloupe seeds. Now, Ambrosia seeds are expensive. I bought 32 seeds for $6.

But if even half of them come up and get the right kind of weather, we’ll be ahead of the game.

Uncle Jack bought seed by the pound and planted cantaloupe by the acre. When it was time to pick, Grandmama would say to us, “Run out and bring in some cantaloupes for breakfast.”

We’d run out to the field and bring back as many as we children could carry. We’d put a few on the old table on the back porch and take in at least two for Grandmama. She’d cut them in two, scoop the seeds out into the chicken scrap bucket and put each half on a saucer for us to eat.

To this day I prefer cantaloupe at room temperature. It seems to bring out the sweetness and natural flavor.

We’ll need to wait a little while before we plant. The soil needs to be a bit warmer for the seed to germinate. Once they sprout, and I sincerely hope they do, I’ll spread pine straw out around the hills. It will protect the roots and keep the cantaloupe from getting sun blistered or mud spattered.

Uncle Jack planted his Edistos in soil that was about one-half sand. I know the soil determines the flavor and sweetness of many things. We have the best tomato dirt because the hill across from our garden has sent all its topsoil down to our tomato patch. I hope the cantaloupes will thrive on the same.

It’s taken years to improve the areas of soil, which are mostly red clay. Mulch, manure and good dirt hauled in have helped. But sand is hard to come by.

I don’t know what Uncle Jack would recommend, but I will be open to any guidance he may send down from heaven. I’m confident he’s there walking between endless rows of crops, laughing, blue eyes twinkling, telling jokes, checking the soil and pulling a pack of Lucky Strikes out of his shirt pocket.

It will always be summer in heaven. He’ll have on his ever-present aviator glasses, cap and khaki pants. It is nice to know he can grow things up there without having to deal with weeds, pesticides, drought or flood, the bane of every farmer’s existence.

He will not be alone. Leroy will be with him, and they’ll ride around together in the old green Chevy truck, stopping and checking the progress of each field as they come to it.

So, if even one of my cantaloupes is as good as the worst one he ever grew, I will be happy.

While he was living it, we were learning it. Some of the most useful knowledge we picked up came from his classroom outside in the fields and inside the cab of the pickup when he let us go with him. That is also how most of us learned to drive. So, Uncle Jack, all my cantaloupes will be dedicated to your memory. I never eat one without thinking of you.