Rocksalt and the melon thieves

Discussion in 'Sound Off' started by steve ypsi mi, Dec 19, 2007.

  1. when I was 13 years old in 1953 we were pretty poor and loved to fish, Our fishing gear was pretty pathetic. Money was hard to come by for a young person and a lot of older ones. I was always trying to figure out how to make money to get some store boughten hooks and fishing lines. I would love to have a real sinker instead of a nut or bolt tied on the line, we found hooks among the rocks we fished while hunting crawdads but they were few and far between so if you broke your line we would be done fishing until we found another.
    When ever we got up town which was rare I would go into the hardware store and just drool over the tins of hooks that held about 50 assorted hooks, they were about 25 cents, the container was about the size of a silver dollar and a inch thick, as I looked at them thinking if I had a can of them I could fish for year's, next I would look at the 20 pound black braided line day dreaming about fishing and hooking a big bass and he wouldn't break this line like they did our old line that was dry rotted. this hardware was heaven for a poor kid from the country. the Rods and reels in the racks were just beautiful with the green and red handles on the casting reels with fishing scene's engraved on the side plates. I knew I could never buy one of them.
    Like I said there was not much money available to a 13 year old from a poor family, My Dad had died in 1949 and my mother made about a dollar a hour which she had to feed the 4 kids still at home so asking for .25 cents was out of the question. I used to try and get people to let me mow there yards but no one had money to pay for this back then.
    One of the kids on the street that liked to fish as much as I did suggested that we try to get a job in the truck farm just down the street, I said they only hire kids 15 and above, He said we can lie and say we are 15, so me and him and his brother went down while they were picking tomatoes and talked to the farm boss, he believed us and hired all 3 of us.
    We started the next day, Bright and early at 6:00 AM, we were to be paid 25 cents a hour. depending on what you picked you might work at least 8 hours and some times 10 hours so we could make $2.00 to $2.50 a day, man in a week we would be rich, at $2.00 a day X 5 would be $10.00 and they paid cash no tax's back then.
    we started picking tomatoes, that was back breaking work and picking up the bushel basket and moving it when it got over the half way mark was hard for 85 pound kids 4-10 tall, the other kids were a lot older than us and a lot bigger, they tormented us all day. They would throw green tomatoes and hit you in the back of the head, they would push you down when you were struggling to carry the basket of tomatoes spilling the contents which we had to pick up, they just made life miserable for us. On the way home that night we were just dragging our feet from the work, we talked about how maybe are tormenters would leave us alone tomorrow. 6:00 we were back, our tormenters didn't stop, they just made life miserable for us all that morning, at the lunch break we were setting apart from the rest of the pickers, the farm had a pond that was dug for irrigation. we didn't see the ornery boys sneaking up on us and they grabbed one of my friends and threw him into the pond and as he tried to get out they were pelting him with green tomatoes that hurt when they hit you, Me and don (not his real name) ran, we left Stan ( not his real name ) to fend for him self, we couldn't help him any way. well Stan came home and we had enough, we didn't go back but on Friday we went to see the farm boss about paying us our day and half of wages which should have been $3.00 a piece, he refused to pay us saying we didn't do enough work. well me Don, and Stan were going to get even and get our $3.00 so we could buy our fishing hooks and sinkers..
    Don made a suggestion, he said since the boss wouldn't pay us we could get our money, I said how are we going to force him to pay us, He said well the cantaloupes and water melons will be ready in a few days and we will just go down after dark and pick as much as he owes us and sell them in the neighborhood, we figured we needed about 5 baskets full of the cantaloupes, each held about a dozen cantaloupes at 15 cents each ought to be about right, that was about 9 dollars worth but he owed us the extra. I said to Don that I heard that they guarded the melon patch when they were ripe with a guy with a 12 gauge with rock salt in the shells which wouldn't kill you but would burn like heck if you was shot by them, he said that's a old story to keep kids from stealing the melons.
    We made plans, we gathered 3 bushel baskets from our house's and a couple from some neighbors. That night about 10 PM we arrived, there was some part of a moon out, we could see fairly well. we were on the edge of the melon patch all hunkered down, I was shaking, I never stole any thing in my life but this was different we were getting our money the farm boss owed us one way or another. we laid there looking for movement, the night was hot and muggy, I was sweating and the mosquito's were having a feast on our scrawny little bodies, I was still worried about the 12 gauge with rock salt even though Stan said that was a old made up story. I was squashing mosquito's rather than slap them making noise would give us away if there was a guard. after about 20 minutes of surveillance we had to make our move our die there from loss of blood from the mosquito's eating us alive, we moved out in the cantaloupe patch and filled 3 baskets which we carried back into the tree line, we went out and filled the other two, we were walking back to the tree line bordering the property and was just feet away carrying the 2 full baskets between us, the guy in the center had a hold of the two baskets while me and don were on the outside. I was thinking this will teach them not to pay us, we had our money now as soon as we sold the melons. just as my feet hit the tree line there was a huge explosion, that still muggy night the sound was deafening and then a second one almost as if the to explosions were one, a millisecond after the first explosion we were in full stride running like we were in a hundred yard dash, we ran the 1/2 mile or so to Don's house in about 2 minutes, we never looked back during the run and we were so scared that we never dropped the 2 bushel basket' we were carrying with melon's, we just were so scared that we clamped onto the handle's in our fear and ran for our live's, the first few hundred feet I figured the guy would reload and get us the next 2 shots but none ever came.
    We hid by some bush's at Dons house and sweating so bad ours eyes were burning with the sweat running off or heads from the run for our lives and the mosquito's were feasting on us again , we watched thinking the person would come looking for us but no one came. we left the melon's in the bush's behind Don's house and the next morning we looked at them, we had about 15 left, the rest had fell out during our run for our live's, we did sell them and got about 75 cents a piece , I had enough to buy the tin of hooks now and a few sinkers.
    We never talked about going back to get any more melons for the rest of the payment the farm boss owed us, it just went with out saying.
    Later in life Don was killed in Vietnam in about 1968 on his second tour of duty there and his brother Stan was killed in a Fight when he was about 30 or so. I the third melon thief went on to law enforcement which I retired from 18 years ago.