Georgia Magazine - August 2017 - 27
Mountain melon memories
BY DAWNE W. BRYAN
Top: Dawne Bryan's grandsons, Nathan, left,
and Tommy Bryan, carry on their family heritage: a love for watermelons. Above: From
left, Lucy Ezzard Bartlett, Henry Ezzard, Jim
Pleasants and Joanne Ezzard Barksdale dig
into watermelon slices in Tiger in the 1940s.
Several generations of Dawne Bryan's family
lived in a row at the base of Tiger Mountain,
where the arrival of watermelons was a
special occasion in the summer.
out of breath, at either my grandmother MaClyde's house or the rock
dwelling where my great-grandparents lived for the watermelon-cutting,
which was a close second to our usual "family feed." An outside table had
been hurriedly covered with newspaper, and a large butcher knife had
been brought from the kitchen.
The melon, often room temperature but occasionally chilled, was
hauled up onto the table. With great
ceremony, the designated adult would
slice into the dark-green rind and,
with a flourish and a wrenching
sound, pull the two halves apart.
There would be revealed the heart-
the sweetest, juiciest, seed-free part-
and he or she would taste the red
flesh of the melon before declaring it
to be "just right." Sometimes it would
be pronounced a little mushy but still
Soon everyone had a slice. Some
would stand with their watermelon
held far out in front of them, taking
bites and spitting seeds into the nearby bushes. Others would put their
pieces on plates, add a generous
sprinkling of salt and use knives to
neatly cut their melon and carefully
remove the seeds. I remember cringing when the men would use sharp
pocket knives as their utensils, fearing they would cut themselves as they
brought each bite to their lips.
While the grown-ups talked
about crops or the weather, we
young-uns would see how far we
could spit watermelon seeds or would
scare the little children by telling
them, with great seriousness, that if
they swallowed seeds, watermelons
would grow in their stomachs.
Once, I asked my aunt what vitamin was in a watermelon. She replied, "Vitamin P, 'cause that's what it
makes you do!" That got a laugh.
And one time, someone brought
a yellow-fleshed watermelon-a real
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Dawne Bryan's husband, Randy, also grew
up enjoying watermelon. The fruit likely was
more widely available in his hometown of
Fort Valley in Middle Georgia. Here, he sits
at far right holding the dog, Tina, with family
members, from left, Inard, Elmo, Mary T. and
novelty. Though it tasted similar, it
just wasn't the same.
I now live in Middle Georgia,
where watermelons are ubiquitous
from Memorial Day through mid-July
and often are sold from the backs of
trucks and at roadside stands. You'll
find them in grocery stores, where
you can buy them in or out of season,
regular or seedless-sometimes already cubed and ready for eating.
And I still eat my share. But I'll always
remember the joy and anticipation of
that sweet burst of flavor when a regular summer day was transformed
into a special occasion by the arrival
of a mere watermelon.
Dawne W. Bryan is a retired educator who enjoys writing about times
past. She and her husband, Randy,
live in Cochran and are members of
Does this talk of watermelons
have your mouth watering?
Maybe it's time to revisit
the Georgia Cooks story
about this juicy fruit-and, of course,
recipes-in the June 2016 issue. Check it
out at bit.ly/gm0616watermelons.
n the tiny hamlet of Tiger, nestled
in the Appalachian Mountains of
Northeast Georgia, watermelons
were not a local product and were, in
fact, considered a rare treat for my
family in the 1950s and '60s. Four
generations of us were spread among
three houses, all in a row, at the foot
of Tiger Mountain. There was great
excitement when we received word,
either by phone or just someone hollering down the hill: "Come on up!
Uncle Bumps [or some other relative
from south of where we were] has
brought a watermelon!"
We'd run up the hill and arrive,