Watermelon and Junebugs

It’s here, folks! It seems such a short time ago that I was asking myself, “Will warm weather ever get here?” I have my answer. Summer is here!

The temperatures last week and this week have convinced me that summer has arrived! I am already anticipating the cooler days of late September and October! But first, June, July, and August hold much to be enjoyed and endured.

Bill Shepard

Bill Shepard

This is vacation time! School is out and for many, this is the opportune time to have the family vacation. Attendance, at the church where I attend, spoke it loudly and clearly. The preacher said a lot of folk were on vacation. One preacher was heard to say that at this time of year, a lot of Christians were up and down, “up in the mountains or down at the beach!”

I recall a Sunday morning, many years ago, when I was a pastor of a church congregation. One early spring Sunday morning, I arrived at church and met the Superintendent of the Sunday School. He began with, “Preacher, most of our folk have gone to the mountains!” “That’s all right,” I said, “If I was not the pastor, I would go also!”

When I began this article, I was thinking of all the fun I had as a boy in the summertime. I said it before, summer for me began on the first day after school was out! Mama allowed my brothers and me to put our shoes away and go barefoot until school opened again in September. It would only be a short while before I would be wearing a white rag tied around my toes or foot, a sign that I had stumped (is that a good word?) my toe or had stepped on a rusty nail or cut my foot on a piece of broken glass. Soaked with kerosene, the wounds would heal before it was time to wear shoes again.

Summertime was the time for watermelons and Junebugs! Both showed up about the same time each year. The leaf-eating beetles would appear first among the butterbean vines in our garden. Mama would usually be the first to see one while gathering the beans and she would call out, “Bill, come and get this Junebug.” I would run to where she was and capture my make-believe airplane. I would tie a long piece of Mama’s sewing thread to its hind legs and let it fly to imaginary places while I would pretend that I was its passenger. As the flying machines became more plentiful, I would have a number of them flying at the same time. I could spend hours pretending that I was seeing faraway places from the backs of my Junebugs.

At about the same time of the appearance of the Junebugs, the first watermelons would show up. Wagons loaded with the sweet fruit of the vine would appear on the streets of our village. Farmers from as far away as Dovesville would bring their melons to the village for sale. They would travel all along, up and down the narrow dirt streets to sell a melon to shoppers who had come to the wagons. During the weeks of July and August, the melons would be plentiful and then they would be gone. It would be another whole year before one would be seen again; unlike today, when they may be seen in stores the entire year.

Junebugs loved watermelon too. After eating a slice of watermelon, I would place the rind near the bean rows. Within hours, I would go back and find it covered with Junebugs! I could have as many imaginary flying objects, as I desired.

As I write, I am wondering if there are others reading who have had similar experiences as I, in the Good Ole Summertime!

Mr. Shepard is a native of Darlington, S.C., and a current resident of Piedmont, S.C. and author of “Mill Town Boy” and “Bruised”. He has been sharing his tales of growing up in Darlington for decades, and we are delighted to share them each week.

Author: Duane Childers

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