Sunday, August 21, 2011

55. Stereotypes

August brings many things in our state, the most noticeable of these being heat. But it also produces great fruit. So it was no surprise when I saw C.W. Approaching me in the park carrying an ice chest and looking for all the world like a real country bumpkin. I’m talking overalls that stopped two inches above his ankles, a straw hat, and a dingy blue shirt topped off with a red bandana tied around his neck.

I was not surprised when, after sitting beside me, he opened his ice-chest to reveal two full crescents of watermelon, one of the treats that make Arkansas bearable in August.

“Lookee here what I brung us,” he said in his best imitation of a hick southern accent. He retrieved a slice and tried to hand it to me but I declined.

“Don’chew like watermelon?” he said.

“Not right here and right now.”

“Don’t mind if I do?”

A year or so ago I would have found it embarrassing but I have developed a tolerance for his antics. Besides, most of the visitors to the park are tourists so, who cares?

I shrugged and watched him as he took the slice in his hands and studied it. He lifted it toward his face but then stopped and lowered it, turning to me.

“How do y’all do this?”

“Do what?”

“Eat watermelon this way.”

“What way?”

“Just cramming your face down in it.”

I just looked at him.

“I mean there has to be some secret to it.” He raised the slice toward his face, but stopped short again. “Ain’t there?”

“Why are you asking me?”

“Ain’t you a country boy?”

“I was raised one.”

“Country roots?”

“As country as you can get.”

“Then what is the secret? How do people in the country do it?

“Want to know a real secret?”

“That’s the general idee,” he said trying again to sound “country.”

I have never in my life seen anyone raised in the country eat watermelon that way.”


“Sorry, but the only people I have ever seen stick their face in a melon and cover themselves with sticky juice are city kids at parties and festivals.”

“You gotta be puttin’ me on.”

“Sorry, my mother would have worn a persimmon tree switch out on us if she had ever caught us eating a watermelon that way.”

“Then how, uh, how did you?”

Southern cats are too cool for sloppy eating habits
“With eating utensils, how do you think?”

“Well black people sure did it this way, didn’t they?”

“I’ve never seen a black person eat a watermelon, but I seriously doubt it.”

“But all them pictures…”

“Dehumanizing stereotypes are hard to amend.”

“What makes you think that some of your country cousins might not have done it this way?”

“Well there is one good reason, a real southern one.

”What’s that?”


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