Left to their own designs, with no real entertainment available, teenage boys can create a whole mess of trouble.
Now remember this was more than 60 years ago, a more innocent time. None of this would fly today.
At that time, most small town area farmers, although many wouldn’t admit it, counted on a group of teenage boys stealing at least one watermelon from them every summer. And, if a young teenage boy thought he had “stolen” a melon and gotten away with it, then he was a B.M.O.C. (Big Man On Campus).
The way it worked was several teenaged boys would get together on a summer Saturday night, pretending that they’re going to meet several teenaged girls who will just swoon at the thought of going out with these hometown heroes.
THE BELIEF being that thought/statement, punctuated with just the right swagger, will convince others that the proposer of such an adventure will be looked upon as “way cool.” But, the ‘gang’ knows it will not happen because none of these brave swaggering souls will muster enough courage, nor deodorant, to pop the question, so they have to come up with something to instill and justify the swagger.
So, if plans “go awry” in the chick department, there’s always a swagger-inducing trip to some farmer’s field to steal a watermelon. Not romantic, just daring, although there were some guys who thought it was “tough” to brag to “chicks” about swiping the melons from that “dumb farmer.”
Pretty soon, however, there wasn’t any glamour left in such a statement, so they sought excitement another way.
AHA! We’ll find a younger guy, preferably one who’s been begging to go on a watermelon “raid,” and announce he can qualify for “membership” by participating in the field raid. But, he must be the one to pick up the biggest melon and get out of the field safely without awakening Farmer Jones in order to be a member in the “coolest group” in town.
Naturally, one “gang” member had to be able to convince the youngster, with a straight face, that he had to steal the melon in order to qualify. Usually, some younger, nerdy kid who desperately sought to run with the coolest guys was chosen as the victim.
“Watermelon stunt” was set up with all but one of the group convincing the “victim” to accompany them to the field. And, eager beavers were plentiful. The “hang back” guy was to be Farmer Brown in the field, armed with Dad’s 12-gauge shotgun, loaded with birdshot, just in case of an errant aim, to minimize damage.
About the time the “victim” had scooped up a 50-pound melon, “Farmer Brown” was to rear up across the field and yell, “So, you’re the little so-and-so’s who’ve been stealing my melons,” and fire the loud shotgun in the air.
OF COURSE, the melon was dropped and everyone beat a hasty retreat to the car and back to town where it was revealed that it was all indeed just a trick to scare the pants off the “new recruit.” Usually, the victims were good sports and laughed as they were welcomed into the inner sanctum.
Once the trick was played on “Goose,” the toughest guy on the football team. He laughed when it was all over but wanted to pull it on a “sucker” from a nearby town.
“Sucker” had a jeep with a canvas top and, as he rejected the “offer” because he knew it was a trick, he leaned out of the jeep and laughed. Goose took great offense, took the shotgun and peppered the canvas top. Several birdshot pellets embedded right behind the victim’s ear, not causing any life-threatening injury but the local constabulary convinced Goose his best choice was to join the Air Force, which he did.
Then he straightened out his life, played college football, got married, was a good family man and enjoyed a good life.
Willis Webb is a retired community newspaper editor-publisher of more than 50 years experience. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.