One of the great things about having Moody Air Force base in the area is we get a lot of wonderful volunteers to help with dog rescues. These are not men and women who show up and stand around, oh no, they are active, assertive, and incredible. During the Great Thunder and Lightning, Heat Wave Melon Sellin’, I got a guy named Brady, who was no disappointment. He helped sell melons, helped set up, and sat with me from ten in the morning until one in the afternoon.
At ten it wasn’t bad. The rain had just stopped, and Brady is a dog trainer, so we had no end of stories to tell and listen to from one another. He understands, perfectly, not all dog breeds can be homed with all people. His dog is a German Shepherd, and an active one at that. But he’s from Indiana, and this is his first South Georgia summer. By eleven, the heat is beginning to impress him. We sell a few melons, but I’m beginning to worry the heat is going to get to them, even in the shade. The asphalt parking lot begins to shimmer as the temperature starts racing towards triple digits. An hour goes by and no one stops. The sun is now blasting down pure white heat and Brady turns pink. We shake hands, know we’ll meet again at the next event, and I’m flying solo.
There’s an old adage that if you get out of the heat because you feel like you ought to, it’s already too late. I turn one of the tents over to facilitate pushing the telescopic legs in, and a skate board rolls to a stop at my feet. I’ve blocked the sidewalk, and a young guy carrying a twelve pack in a grocery bag is staring at me.
“Do you need a hand, sir?” he asks, and yeah, I could use some help.
We break down the tents, store them in my truck, sell four watermelons to the last customer, and as I’m selling the melons, the young man breaks one of the tent legs. He is distraught, and offers to pay for the tent.
I offer to give him four melons for helping, and he allows he loves melons and calls his roommate to help come get them, but he still wants to pay for the damage. I tell him if he helps with our next event, we’ll call it even. The tent is older than he is. His roommate arrives and mediates. He thinks four melons is excellent for helping me, and helping with an event ought to even things up. He offers to help, too. We trade numbers and part ways.
The local food bank is closed, and I have dying water melons. Some are already leaking, some are getting soft. A man wanders up and asks how much I’m selling them for. I tell him I’m trying to give them away at that point, and his eyes light up. All of them? Yep, all of them. He gets his cell phone out and starts making calls. A couple of guys show up and start unloading the melons.
“This one is bad, but this one is still good, hey, call Ray, tell him to get down here with the kids, tell him a guy is giving away watermelons!” People start showing up and taking home free melons. This is in the very poorest part of Valdosta and the hottest part of the day. It’s like Christmas to get something to eat for free.
Two guys pool their money and have twenty-seven dollars. They want to pay me. I tell them if they’ll dispose of the bad melons, we’ll call it a day. For the third time in about an hour, I have a handshake deal with someone.
Okay, we made less than one hundred fifty bucks on the day. I had close to seventy bucks in it myself. The weather got us, and the melons were dying. But I made a couple of friends, picked up some new volunteers, and put the excess melons to good use. All in all, despite everything that happened, I drove away feeling pretty damn good.
Mike writes regularly at his site: The Hickory Head Hermit.
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