The Bickford County Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest… Evan Goodjohn
Mabel Frost, the only girl entered in the Bickford County Seed Spitting Contest, sat eating a slice of fresh cut, juicy watermelon on a picnic table on the fairgrounds periphery.
Mabel was a pretty girl with two braided pigtails hanging precariously over her slender shoulders. Her freckles, blemishes she abhorred, covered her face giving her the appearance of a young Doris Day.
The boys entered in the contest liked Mabel, thought the girl was, well, cute, but Mabel wasnâ€™t ready for boys just yet, too busy climbing trees and flying kites, and participating in her favorite summer pastime, watermelon seed spitting at the county fair.
The prize was a twenty-five dollar gift certificate to Walkerâ€™s grocery store in downtown Cumberland Falls.
Johnny Walker, the son of the grocery store owner, was a bright young man; a show off; silly for a pre-teen, but clever when it came to spitting watermelon seeds, though Mabel had beaten him twice, he continued to enter the contest each year. His two pals, Tommy Watson and Billy Brewer also entered this year; each vowing to come home with the prize.
Secretly Johnny more than liked Mabel; he was… attracted to her, not for her seed spitting abilities, but rather her good looks. Johnny was fourteen and Mabel thirteen this summer, and he had to admit, he liked her a little more than he liked his pet turtle, Archibald. Mabel was… well she was cute; a little sassy to suit him, but cute none-the-less. If all went well at the seed spitting contest, and she won, he would ask her to have a malt with him at Thompsonâ€™s Drugstore. If he won, there is no way she would join him at the drugstore for a malt… Mabel was too proud.
â€śIf I win, and I am sure I will, I am going to buy me one of them hand controlled helicopters in your fatherâ€™s window downtown,â€ť Tommy said to Johnny Walker.
â€śYou ainâ€™t gonna win… cause Iâ€™m gonna,â€ť Billy said. â€śI want me one of them hand controlled Ford Mustangs.â€ť
â€śYou guys have to beat me first, and then donâ€™t forget Mabel Frost; she usually wins,â€ť Johnny said.
â€śWell, her winninâ€™ days are over,â€ť Tommy vowed.
â€śOkay, Fellas, line up back of that line I drew over there,â€ť Mark Emery, the judge of the contest said, pointing to a crude chalk drawn line on the new-mown hay in the field.
Tommy Watson and Billy Brewer, Johnnyâ€™s neighbors and good friendsÂ were shorter than Johnny though the same age. Johnny stood five five, with a medium build while Mabel, five one, in stocking feet on a small, delicate frame, that was beginning to develop into womanhood.
The three boys and Mabel lined up, waiting for the signal to spit their seeds. Last contest Mabel won with a ten foot three inch seed spit. This year the boys had determined to beat her record, it was shameful to let a girl beat them.
Spiiiiiiittt, zing, Johnnyâ€™s seed sailed for a nine foot shot. Spiiiiiiiittt, zing, Tommy Watsonâ€™s seed fell two inches short of nine feet. Spiiiiiiittt, zing, Billy Brewerâ€™s seed sailed three inches beyond Johnny Walkerâ€™s seed to gain first place. Next it was Mabel Frostâ€™s turn; closing one eye, and aiming carefully, taking in a deep breath and working up a good amount of saliva, she spit her seed. It sailed high and fast passing Tommyâ€™s seed, then Johnnyâ€™s pip, then it started to descend getting closer and closer to Billyâ€™s seed… neck and neck as the seed spiraled downward landing a hairâ€™s breadth in front of Billyâ€™s seed, but close enough to win the contest. Though she won, Mabel was discouraged; she had not tied last yearâ€™s contest win, but she was happy to have beaten all the boys at the Bickford Watermelon Seed Spitting Contest again this year.
Johnny stared across the table at his lovely wife, her short blond hair, electric blue eyes, and small nose that turned up on the end; a mark of beauty. She sat drinking her morning coffee and composing her shopping list.
â€śNeed anything, Sweetheart?â€ť She asked.
â€śNothing… all set.â€ť
â€śKnow something, Johnny? I love you.â€ť
â€śI love you too, Darling.â€ť He got up out of his chair and went over to her, kissing her affectionately.
â€śWho would ever have believed we would marry someday, Johnny? I have loved you since third grade, and our seed spitting contests at the county fair.â€ť
â€śAnd, I have loved you too, Mabel Walker… even though you beat me at seed spitting.â€ť Johnny laughed.
â€śI was good at it wasnâ€™t I, Honey?â€ť
â€śYou sure were… the best.â€ť
â€śIâ€™m going shopping after you go to work. I think Iâ€™ll pick up some watermelon,â€ť she said. â€śIâ€™ll see if Iâ€™ve still got it; the ability to beat you at seed spitting that is.â€ť
â€śItâ€™s been over twelve years, Darling. I donâ€™t know if Iâ€™ve got enough wind to spit a seed.â€ť He laughed again. â€śHey, want me to call Tommy and Billy and see if they would like to join us… be like old times.â€ť
â€śWill Tommyâ€™s wife let him? You know she has been jealous of me since fifth grade… thinks I am trying to take her husband away from her, Mabel said.â€ť
â€śSheâ€™ll let him if I ask. Itâ€™s Billy we should worry about… hardly ever leaves his house ever since he got married a year ago… still honeymooning I think.â€ť
â€śYou call them, and Iâ€™ll pick up the watermelon, okay?â€ť
â€śYou bet, and, by the way, may the best man… eh… person win. Itâ€™ll be great fun, Mabel… seeing Tommy and Billy again and spitting seeds… weâ€™ll have a BBQ.â€ť
Saturday afternoon came around, and Tommy and Billy with their wives came to the BBQ and a neighborhood seed spitting contest, under the auspices of the Walker clan.
Johnny had already drawn the line in the driveway, and stuck up the cardboard markers for twenty-five feet; a distance decided upon years ago, to be the furthest anyone of them could spit a seed.
The hamburgers were cooked, by Johnny to order, Tommy, rare, Billy medium-well and Mabel, medium. Johnny ate his well done. The old friends reminisced about their grammar school days, and particularly the seed spitting contests each summer at the fair.
â€śMabel, you won more times than any of us… I think I only won one contest in all the summers we played,â€ť Tommy said.
â€śI never won,â€ť Billy lamented. â€śCould never get up enough wind to propel those little seeds.â€ť
â€śI won once, but Mabel was the champion,â€ť Johnny said.
â€śLetâ€™s see if she can retain her blue ribbon for spitting distance,â€ť Tommy said.
â€śWhatâ€™s the prize this year, Johnny?â€ť Billy asked.
â€śEh… let me see… how about another hamburger done to order?â€ť
â€śSounds good, but Iâ€™ll have to take it home with me… eaten too much already,â€ť Billy said.
â€śDonâ€™t worry about it Fellas, I will win this contest lips down, and retain my crown,â€ť Mabel said.
â€śLine up,â€ť Johnny said. Tommy and Billyâ€™s wives sat cheering as Tommy stood erect, puckering up, he spit the seed. It landed, along with his upper partial plate, four feet from the line. Embarrassed, he picked up his teeth, reinserted them and sat down.
â€śHave another turn, Tommy… we wonâ€™t count that one.â€ť Johnny said.
Tommy stood at the line again, puckered up and spit the seed. This time it sailed to the nine foot two inch line. A rousing cheer went up from the fans. Billy stepped up to the line, drew in a deep breath, puckered up and spit the seed sending it to the ten foot line. Another cheer sounded.
It was Johnnyâ€™s turn. Determined to win over his friends, and particularly his wifeâ€™s distance, he swirled the small seed around and around in his mouth, working up saliva. Spiiiiittt, zing the seed was on its way… nine feet, nine feet six inches, nine feet ten inches, and finally coming to rest at the ten foot one inch line; the winner.
Mabel stepped to the line, swiveled her hips, pulled up on her waistband and snapping her head back, thrust it forward with the force of an explosive round from a 9mm pistol she spit the black seed. The seed sailed past all the boyâ€™s seeds and rested on the eleven foot line, a new record had been set for seed spitting, and Mabel Walker had, once more, won the watermelon seed spitting contest.
The visitors went home after having a fun day at the Walkerâ€™s. Though they lost the seed spitting contest they enjoyed the fellowship; they hoped once again it would become a summer tradition. The Bickford Seed Spitting Contest had been a favorite pastime so many years ago, and who knows, maybe some day someone will beat Mabelâ€™s record and become the new champion. Time will tell.