Find Watermelons

(Contributed by Carolina de Solar, guest farmer from Lima, Peru)

Come summer, which in these parts of the world means end of December and end of school, we all got into our station wagon with the real-wood-trimmings, and headed south where we had a farm in the middle of the Ica desert. Yes, I know you must be wondering about a farm in the middle of the desert but there were deep wells, and during the height of the summer the river brought down plenty of water. Dad lived there all year round, but we went to school in the city 300 miles away.

There was the Panamerican Highway, but in those days it was a two lane undivided road. Anyway, come summer and we would be there just in time for the watermelons. What fun life was then, so simple. We could always count on a watermelon to quench our thirst. And more than once, when there was a shortage of water, we literally depended on them.

We would harvest the watermelons and pile them in a large shaded adobe store room to take to the market at the end of the week. When we went with the horses down to the beach (a couple of miles away), we would take a supply of watermelon and bury them right at the shore to cool. Later we shared the loot with the horses.

Of course we also had pip-spitting competitions to see who could spit the farthest (even today I find it depressing to eat pip-less watermelon).

Dad would put up a little shaded stand next to the road and we would take turns selling our watermelons. Sometimes, if there was a glut, we gave some to our pig, Benedict, who was very fond of watermelon. Unfortunately watermelon wasn't fond of him and gave him such terrible gas once that the neighbors in the right wind direction complained.

Today the Panamerican highway has four lanes, all those farms in the Ica desert have turned to asparagus for export, and most watermelons no longer have pips. I know I'm being sentimental, but there was something unique about those watermelons in the middle of the desert.