The five of us; me, Billy, Barton, Glenn, and Barney, head out. We leave the big two story house, with the 9000′ foot palm tree in the front, and head south on the railroad tracks. As we turn left the metropolis of Vina, Ca, disappears immediately. Like it really ever appeared.
There was a market down the road, where you could get a cold Pomac. The biggest features in Vina, were the school and the rusting steel bridge and our grandfather’s house. And the Monastery. Bart and I walked out there along the tracks; one of the brothers met us at the gate and showed us around the utterly silent grounds. The brother was the only one who spoke to us, and after the tour he handed both of us a Hershey Bar.
As we headed back to Vina, we opened the Hershey bars. Under the wrapper were two perfectly molded Hershey bars. The bars that we unwrapped were probably packaged in 1937, were white. Twenty years. White. I don’t know why Bart and I knew that twenty year old Hershey bars were edible, but we didn’t hesitate to eat them.
We are on the tracks, when a rather long, 2” maybe, wheat colored Praying Mantis has landed on my Levis’. It is my first exposure to the Mantid family, grasshoppers, lady bugs, etc., I’m good with that. I don’t get all sissy and try to brush it away. I look down at it, and the mantis turns it head, and looks at me. This is both exceedingly cool and exceedingly creepy. The look of the insects head told me everything was good; don’t fuck with me, I won’t fuck with you. I am good with that. Three hours later Bart and I sit along the tracks; I look down and there is my friend. Once again he, or she; I never thought to ask, turns it’s head. It seems to smile and then opens it wings and flies off.
But, back to the story.
The five of us all have gunny bag, They are 50lbs, net potato bags, Billy has two.
We head to the highway and head west towards Woodson Bridge. It is now called South Ave, at this time is was ‘the road to Woodson Bridge’. It was two miles to the west. There is a period of talk between us that would make “Stand By Me” the movie and “The Body” the book proud.
We are cousin’s. Well, ‘I’ am the cousin, they are the brothers; only four of the six brothers. AB has nothing to do with us and we have nothing to do with Rocky. He was just to young.
We don’t make it to Woodson Bridge, it was never our destination. There is a Peach orchard along the road; when wasn’t there are Peach orchard along the road. A few hundred yard into this particular orchard, the farmer had planted Watermelons. We have arrived.
Billy has now taken control, as he should, he was the oldest. We search through the leaves and find a melon. Billy comes and looks at our find. He reaches down and taps his knuckles on the fruit. If he nods, you have found a keeper, it goes into your bag.
Within a few minutes we are loaded.
Billy has two large melons in his bag, Bart has two also, not quite as heavy, I have one respectable watermelon, Glenn and Barney each carry two smaller melons each; they will argue with each other all the way back, on who had the better score.
We head back. Billy and Bart lead the way, the weight on their backs mean nothing, Barney and Glen are carrying an equal amount of weight as my one watermelon. I am the city boy, and I am fatigued at least, if not fucking exhausted, by the time we get to my grandfathers.
We unload our bags in the small patch of ground by the road, and on the road; it had a three car per day load. There are more toads crossing the road than cars driving down it. If a car ran over one, you could hear the pop halfway across Vina.
All of a sudden the girl’s show up. Barney and Glenn give up a melon to Gail and Frankie; not that they had a choice. Sally is quiet but she has control over who gets what, making sure grandpa gets hi cut. Billy takes the biggest watermelon and cuts a large triangle into it’s side, I’m not sure if anything was poured into the triangle. he next largest melon is sliced. Bart and I take ours and bust them open on the street, I squashed a toad with mine.
Grandpa liked salt on his Watermelon, and sugar on his cottage cheese. I liked grabbing into a ripe pink watermelon with my hands, shoving a large chunk into my mouth and then spitting the seeds at the 25 toads headed straight towards me. Did I mention that toads are a bit salty?