I have just had my whole world shaken. The watermelon, that staple of summer feasts and gatherings, that pillar of the season itself, that emblem of eager do-nothingness, is a vegetable. A vegetable!? It's next of kin? The cucumber and gourd. This makes sense. I can see this. It isn't as if I were just told that it's nearest relative was a turnip or anything (no offence meant towards turnips, of course). Cucumbers and gourds have the rind 'round indsides seeded with juice. Still...a vegetable? huh.
Gourds are traditional water carrying vessels. The first hydration packs, you might say. Sorry Camelbak, you are not original. Thus, the high water content of the watermelon, and this hydrophilic genus makes sense.
I remember reading, upon my mother's recommendation, "The Cry of the Kalahari." At the age of 13, rurally tucked in on an Iowa Farm, I was sure I was being called to the life of a biologist in the African Desert. I am also sure that this was not my mother's intent, these notions. However, she always encouraged them, the notions. Perhaps that was her goal after all, to get into me and my sister's heads, Notions. Notions that we could Be and Do things. The book was on dark basement shelves, dusty with dreams, and illuminated by the circling beams of a lone pull-string light bulb. It was on a shelf of her old books, many, about natural childbirth. These, I left in place after curiously flipping through pictures which left me no desire for motherhood. I wondered, did my friends who aimed to fulfill their life through marriage and mothering know about these? I am sure their dreams would be altered.
"The Cry of the Kalahari" was left from my mom's own "I want to be a biologist" days. I was sure of this veterinatian/biologist career for awhile. That is, until I saw the larger members of our barnyard menagerie have trouble birthing, and the vet's hand, elbow, and then shoulder, disappear up the apparently never-ending birth canal. Then came the warning of the powerful contractions, known to sometimes break helping-human arms (how the calf or foal escaped unscathed, still baffles me). This, along with my inability to deal with blood and prolapsed cow uteruses (this, I left with my sister and the cow in the field. Still, I feel guilt!), led me to acknowledge that large animal medicine was not my career to be. For awhile, it was a lovely notion though, fed and watered with hours of reading James Herriot; and, the influence of our own local country veterinarian, The Gentle Giant, we all called him, Dr. Rishel.
This, dear reader, I promise does have relevance to watermelons. Here, I read, that the watermelon is thought to have originated in the Kalahari. I can just picture the Owens's being sustained, those many many months, by this native growing gourd.
And here in a late summer continents away, I continue to partake in the drinking gourd, reminded that there is an Old Man "a-waitin' for to carry me to freedom."