THE HEART OF THE MATTER
It was 5:30 in the morning and I could hear Mr. Holden’s old truck coming to pick me up for work. I grabbed my last breakfast biscuit in one hand and the two sandwiches Mama had fixed me for lunch in the other and ran for the front door, that grouchy old Bill, that drove the truck for Mr. Holden, was already blowing the horn before he even pulled up in the yard and I could hear my three work buddies clowning, laughing, and calling for me to get out of bed.
I came flying through the front door and jumped right off our old sagging, ragged front porch and in two skips and a hop was up the side body and onto the back of the truck before old Bill could let out another string of his stupid cuss words. With all the regular jerking, grinding of gears, and it still being really dark, Bill got the old cantankerous truck turned around and we were headed for one of Mr. Holden’s watermelon fields; at fourteen years old in 1956 my buddies and I were thrilled to have a summer job working ten to twelves hours a day for three dollars………. Money, money, money!
As soon as I got on the truck, Sam, my best friend, wanted to know if I had some money for a drink at lunch. I said, “Sam, your daddy runs the general store, you’re rich, and you want to know if I’ve got any money”. My other buddies, Gene and Will started whining and giggling like children and asking for money too, they were just ragging on me because they thought it was funny that Sam was always borrowing money so I told all three of them that maybe Mr. Holden would give them the money or he might say just drink the water I’m already giving you for free.
Bill got us to the highway without sliding into the ditch off the slick, Georgia, red clay hill that ran down to the highway, (we had a good overnight rainstorm) and we all beat on the truck cab and yelled “Ride ‘m cowboy, yahoo, he made it”. Then, roaring down the highway at fifty miles an hour the old truck was so loud we couldn’t hear ourselves think much less talk to each other so we just yelled into the wind and made the craziest noises we could.
The field was real misty and pretty far back in the woods, but old Bill had already been there, so he pulled right in and parked under the trees where the watermelon hauler had his big tractor-trailer parked. The hauler waved and Bill went to talk to him, Gene and Will went to check out the small tractor and trailer we would be using to haul the melons up to the big rig, and Sam and I looked at each other and took off down the path that went behind a low stand of trees and brush. We had thirty minutes before work started.
We looked back to make sure we couldn’t be seen from the parking area, stepped out into the field, and grabbed the biggest most beautiful cannon Ball watermelon out there. We found a good spot by a log to sit on, and we were ready to eat some watermelon.
Oh, my God, that’s beautiful1″, Sam said when I dropped the big beautiful melon from just the right height — it broke wide open, and that luscious red watermelon heart just popped up out of the rest of the melon, like it was being served up to us.
“Oh my Lord”, I said as Sam, and I started breaking out and devouring big chunks of that sweet, delicious heart. It was oh, so good in the cool, fresh morning air; it seemed a little otherworldly, maybe even a little wicked. I’m sure we looked like spoiled, wicked royalty or demons devouring something Holy out behind the church. But, every chance we had before work, Sam and I would have us a cool one as we referred to our little ritual. At the time I was feeling just a little naughty, but I knew we shouldn’t be wasting that much of that great fruit; sometimes we’d do two or most of two if we had time.
Actually, looking back now I feel sure it was a spiritual experience, a message from my soul because when a person remembers something like that, so powerfully, for so many decades, almost his whole life, you know there was something powerful, wonderful, and mystical going on within.
Sorry I didn’t furnish a traditional ending to this little story from my past I was just using the story to suggest how I may have turned from a person who was not concerned much about the whys and wherefores of the riddles and mysteries of life to grow up to be someone who never grows tired of searching for the answer for anything if it looks like it will shine a new light on my spiritual path……. I guess the easiest way to sum up a guy like me is to label me a seeker or as I or someone else might phrase it, a person who is determined to get down to the heart of the natter because I’m not just blindly seeking, I want to understand and know the heart of the matter……. I understand the prodigal son in the Bible better now and sometimes I come to tears when I think about how his father welcomes him home with open arms after he had fallen to a low low level of sin.
So, I can’t prove for sure that that little ritual Sam and I developed that summer struck a chord of destiny deep down in my soul and harmonized with a spiritual truth……. nor can I prove the experience led me to constantly seek the purity of truth and the love and presence of God……. nor can I say it absolutely predicted whether I was going to turn into a heart of the matter guy whether or not I ever tasted the heart of a watermelon or not, but I have put my heart, my life, and my money on it.