Norris Chambers Old Timer's Tales

Watermelon Bandits On The Move

by Norris Chambers

   The deep sandy soil in the Sand Lapper area produced some of the finest watermelons grown anywhere. Not only were they monsters in size, they were sweet and juicy and one of the best delicacies mother nature had to offer in those troubled times of the late twenties and thirties.

  Elbert Hall's family had their share of the field invading black land farm kids. The Hall farm was not very deep into the Sand Lapper domain and was an easy target for the fun seeking parties. They would park on the big road at night and make their way through the thick brush to the watermelon patch.

  These invaders were not very neat with their feasting. Many of the fine, large melons were either slashed open with a knife or slammed against the ground to open them. Then the partying group would tear out the hearts of the melons, devour them and look for another. Most of the melon was wasted.

  It was after one of these Saturday night raids that Elbert contacted Clifton and me and asked for our help in stopping the raids. We knew that would require some real ingenious thinking.

  The first thing that we thought of was injecting some of the melons with Croton Oil. This could be done with a livestock vaccinating needle and it would be very hard to detect the contamination, especially if the injection was done at the stem end. But this was an old trick and we welcomed the challenge to try something else.

  Fixing up a shocking machine on the fence would be easy enough. We had already built an electric fence charger that worked well in corralling cattle, horses and hogs and delivered a nice shock to any kid or adult that came in contact with it. But when we were discussing it with Elbert in the privacy of their blacksmith shop, somehow the conversation led to the discussion of several five gallon cans along the north wall. They were filled with sorghum molasses that they used to poison boll weevils on cotton stalks. The molasses was thinned with water and mixed with arsenic, then sprayed on the leaves and bolls.

  Clifton came up with an idea. "Do you think we could use about two cans of that old syrup?" Elbert allowed that we could. "You know where they come through the fence into the field there by the road." He continued, "We could dig a nice little v-shaped trench about two feet deep and put the syrup in the bottom. Then we could take a couple of tow sacks and cover it up, sprinkle a little grass over it and let them step into it!" That sounded funny when we thought about syrup over their shoes and tracked back into the car. We had to waste a minute of our valuable time laughing about it. We believed that all thoughts of a watermelon feast would be gone.

  "And another thing we could do," suggested Elbert, "is rig up a screamer with a long trip wire and the old syrup sprayer over there." He pointed to the syrup sprayer standing by the cans of syrup. A screamer was a sort of whistle that was popular in those days. When you blew into it, the air turned a little turbine that made a whistling sound like a siren. His idea was to pump some air into the sprayer and connect the whistle to the nozzle hose. The cord would turn a stop and release the air into the whistle. It sounded like a very practical and interesting idea. Now it was my turn and I suggested that we hide in the brush about a hundred yards from the site of the action and fire our double-barrel shot guns in rapid succession. We had to pause for another laughing session.

  The plan was not too hard to prepare for. A couple of shovels soon dug a nice little ditch that tapered in at the bottom and was about two feet wide at the top and four feet long. It was directly across the trail that led from the slack fence to the edge of the melon patch. A long stretch of binder twine, or grass string, was placed about four inches above the ground and held up by forked twigs. We dipped the string in thinned black paint before stretching and positioned it just past the ditch between it and the field. The well-oiled stop from an old gas stove was easy to turn on by a slight pull of the string.

  On Saturday afternoon we put the syrup in our pit and set our noise maker. About 9:30 we took our shotguns and waited in the brush.

  We didn't have to wait long. An old Model T touring car pulled up and stopped in the road and we heard some chatting and laughing as they got out and headed for the fence. It was obvious they had been there before because they knew just where the loose wires were.

  The first sound we heard was the squeal of a woman and a startled yelp from a man. There was some fast talking that we couldn't understand and about that time someone tripped on the string and the siren started wailing. It must have really startled the surprised intruders. We started firing our guns at about three or four second intervals. By the time the last shot was fired, the first one had reloaded and was ready to start the noise again. Before the second round of firing was finished the car lights came on and we heard it racing down the road. The three of us were busy laughing.

  Without hesitating, we ran down and reset our trap. The sack was pushed down into the layer of syrup, but we figured it wouldn't hurt to reuse it. It just made the grass on top stick a little tighter. The string wasn't broken and it was soon back on its supports.

  Then we pumped up the air tank and waited for the next victim.

  It was probably thirty minutes before another car came by. We heard the same type of expressions that had come from the first party, but for some reason they did not trip the siren. We fired the guns and they left without bothering the melons.

  We waited until a little after midnight for another intruder, but none came.

  Our next move was to add two more barbed wires to the fence and stretch all wires as tight as possible. This would make it harder to get though the fence.

  Elbert's dad complimented us on a job well done and that pretty well ended the watermelon bandit's raids on that patch.

  The moral of this tale is to keep plenty of sticky syrup on hand, have a squealer whistle and an old sprayer on hand and keep your shotgun handy in case you are invaded by watermelon bandits!


Return To Main Page (and select another Old Timer's Tales to read)

Please Click Here To E-Mail Me
Copyright © 2007 Norris Chambers