Watermelon Mystery at Sugar Creek
THE WATERMELON MYSTERY
AT SUGAR CREEK
AT SUGAR CREEK
Scripture Press BOOK DIVISION
Watermelon Mystery at Sugar Creek
Copyright © 1955, by
All rights in this book are reserved. No part may be reproduced in any mannerwithout the permission in writing from the author, except brief quotations usedin connection with a review in a magazine or newspaper.
Printed in the United States of America
IF I hadn’t been so proud of the prize watermelon I had grownfrom the packet of special seed Pop had ordered from the State ExperimentStation, maybe I wouldn’t have been so fighting madwhen somebody sneaked into our truck patch that summer nightand stole it.
I was not only proud of that beautiful, oblong, dark greenmelon, but I was going to save the seed for planting next year. Iwas, in fact, planning to go into the watermelon-raising business.
Pop and I had had the soil of our truck patch tested, and it wasjust right for melons, which means it was well-drained, well-ventilated,with plenty of natural plant food. We would never have toworry about moisture in case there would ever be a dry summer,on account of we could carry water from the iron pitcher pumpwhich was just inside the south fence. As you maybe know, ourfamily had another pitcher pump not more than fifteen feet fromthe back door of our house—both pumps getting mixed up in themystery of the stolen watermelon, which I’m going to tell youabout right now.
Mom and I were down in the truck patch one hot day that summer,looking around a little, admiring my melon and guessinghow many seeds she might have buried in her nice red inside.“Let’s give her a name,” I said to Mom—the Collins family, whichis ours, giving names to nearly every living thing around our farmanyway—and Mom answered, “All right, let’s call her Ida.”
Mom caught hold of the iron pitcher pump handle and pumpedit up and down quite a few fast, squeaking times to fill the pailI was holding under the spout.
“Why Ida?” I asked with a grunt, the pail getting heavier withevery stroke of the pump handle.
Mom’s answer sounded sensible: “Ida means thirsty. I noticed ityesterday when I was looking through a book of names for babies.”
6I had never seen such a thirsty melon in all my half-long life.Again and again, day after day, I had carried water to her, pouringit into the circular trough I had made in the ground around theroots of the vine she was growing on, and always the next morningthe water would be gone. Knowing a watermelon is over ninety-twoper cent water anyway, I knew if she kept on taking waterlike that, she’d get to be one of the fattest melons in the wholeSugar Creek territory.
Mom and I threaded our way through the open spaces betweenthe vines, dodging a lot of smaller other melons grown from ordinaryseed, till we came to the little trough that circled Ida’s vine,and while I was emptying my pail of water into it, I said, “Okay, Ida,my girl. That’s your name: Ida Watermelon Collins. How do youlike it?”
I stooped, snapped my third finger several times against herfat green side and called her by name again, saying, “By this timenext year you’ll be the mother of a hundred other melons. Andyear after next, you’ll be the grandmother of more melons thanyou can shake a stick at.”
I sighed a long noisy happy sigh, thinking about what a wonderfulsummer day it was and how good it felt to be alive, to bea boy and to live in a boy’s world. I carried another pail of water,poured it into Ida’s trough, then stopped to rest in the shade ofthe elderberry bushes near the fence. Pop and I had put up abrand new woven-wire fence there early in the spring, and at thetop of it had stretched two strands of barbed wire, making it dangerousfor anybody to climb over the fence in a hurry. In fact,the only place anybody would be able to get over real fast wouldbe at the stile we were going to build near the iron pitcher pumphalf way between the pump and the elderberry bushes. We wouldhave to get the stile built pretty soon, I thought, ’cause in anotherfew weeks school would start, and I would want to do like I’dalways done—go through or over the fence there to get to thelane, which was a short cut to school.
I didn’t have the slightest idea then that somebody would tryto steal my melon, nor that the stealing of it would plunge me into7the exciting middle of one of the most dangerous mysteries therehad ever been in the Sugar Creek territory. Most certainly I neverdreamed that Ida Watermelon Collins would have a share in helpingthe gang capture a fugitive from justice, an actual runawaythief the police had been looking for for quite a while.
We found out about the thief one hot summer night about aweek later when Poetry, the barrel-shaped member of our gang,stayed all night with me in his green sportsman’s tent which myparents had let us pitch under the spreading branches of the plumtree in our yard.
The way it looks now it will take me almost a whole book towrite it all for you. Boy oh boy, will it ever be fun rememberingeverything! Of course everything didn’t happen that very firstnight but one of the most exciting and confusing things did. Itwouldn’t have happened though, if we hadn’t gotten out of our cotsand started on a pajama-clad hike in the moonlight down throughthe woods to the spring—Poetry in his green striped pajamas andI in my red-striped ones, and Dragonfly in——!
But say! I hadn’t planned to tell you just yet that Dragonfly waswith us that night—which he wasn’t at first. Dragonfly, as youprobably know, is the spindle-legged, pop-eyed member of ourgang, who is always showing up when we don’t need him or wanthim and when we least expect him and is always getting us intotrouble—or else we have to help get him out of trouble.
Now that I’ve mentioned Dragonfly and hinted that he wasthe cause of some of our trouble—mine especially—I’d better tellyou that he and I had the same kind of red-striped pajamas—ourdifferent mothers having seen the same ad in the Sugar CreekTimes and had gone shopping the same afternoon in the same SugarCreek Dry Goods Store and had seen the same bargains in boys’night clothes—two pairs of red-striped pajamas being the only kindleft when they got there.
Little Tom Till’s mother—Tom being the newest memberof our gang—had seen the ad about the sale too, and his motherand mine had each bought for their two red-haired, freckle-faced8sons a pair of blue denim western-style jeans exactly alike, also twomaroon-and-gray-striped T-shirts exactly alike. When Tom and Iwere together anywhere, you could hardly tell us apart. So I lookedlike Little Tom Till in the daytime and like Dragonfly at night.
Poor Dragonfly! All the gang felt very sorry for him on accountof he not only is very spindle-legged and pop-eyed, but in ragweedseason—which it was at that time of the year—his crookednose which turns south at the end, is always sneezing, and he alsogets asthma.
Before I get into the middle of the stolen watermelon story, I’dbetter explain that my wonderful grayish-brown-haired motherhad been having what is called “insomnia” that summer, so Pophad arranged for her to sleep upstairs in our guest bedroom—thatbeing the farthest away from the night noises of our farm,especially the ones that came from the direction of the barn. Momsimply had to have her rest or she wouldn’t be able to keep ondoing all the things a farm mother has to do every day all summer.
That guest room was also the farthest away from the tentunder the plum tree—which Poetry and I decided maybe was anotherreason why Pop had put Mom upstairs.
Just one other thing I have to explain quick, is that the reasonPoetry was staying at my house for a week was on account of hisparents were on a vacation in Canada, and had left Poetry with us.He and I were going to have a vacation at the same time by sleepingin his tent which we pitched in our yard—as I’ve already toldyou, under the spreading branches of the plum tree.
Well, here goes, headfirst into our adventure! It was a very hotlate-summer night, the time of year when the cicadas were as mucha part of a Sugar Creek night as sunshine is part of the day. Cicadas,as you probably know, are broad-headed, protruding-eyedinsects which some people call locusts and others “harvest flies.” Inthe late summer evenings, they set the whole country half crazywith their whirring sounds from the trees where thousands ofthem are like an orchestra with that many members, each memberplaying nothing but a drum.
I was lying on my hot cot just across the tent from Poetry in9his own hot cot, each of us having tried about seven times to go tosleep, which Pop had ordered us to do about seventy-times-seventimes that very night, barking out his orders from the back dooror from the living room window.
Poetry, being in a mischievous mood, was right in the middleof quoting one of his favorite poems, “The Village Blacksmith,”quoting aloud to an imaginary audience out in the barnyard,when Pop called to us again to keep still. His voice came bellowingout through the drumming of the cicadas, saying, “Bill Collins, ifyou boys don’t stop talking and laughing and go to sleep, I’m comingout there and put you to sleep!”
A few seconds later, Pop added in a still-thundery voice, “I’vetold you boys for the last time! You’re keeping Charlotte Anneawake—and you’re liable to wake up your mother, too!” WhenPop says anything like that, like that, I know he really means it,especially when he has already said it that many times.
I knew it was no time of night for my two-year-old cute littlebrown-haired sister, Charlotte Ann, to be awake, and certainly mynice friendly-faced, grayish-brown-haired mother would need a lotof extra sleep, ’cause tomorrow was Saturday and there would bethe house to clean, pies and cookies to bake for Sunday, and a millionchores a farm woman has to do on Saturday, every Saturdaythere is.
“Wonderful!” Poetry whispered across to me. “He won’t tell usany more; he’s told us for the last time. We can laugh and talknow as much as we want to!”
“You don’t know Pop,” I said. “When he says he has said anythingfor the last time he means he won’t say it again with justwords—he’ll use a switch or his old razor strap.”
You see, Poetry didn’t know as well as I did what an expertPop was in the way he could handle a switch—beech, willow, cherryor any kind that happened to be handy—and he could handle arazor strap better than any father a boy ever felt.
Poetry ignored my warning and tried to be funny by saying,“Does your father still use an old-fashioned razor that has to bestropped?”
10I tried to think of something funny myself which was, “He stillhas an old-fashioned boy that has to be—when that boy is too dullto understand.” But maybe what I said wasn’t very humorous,’cause Poetry ignored it.
“I’m thirsty,” he said. “Let’s go get a drink,” his voice comingacross the darkness like the voice of a duck with laryngitis.
Right away there was a squeaking of the springs of his cotas he rolled himself into a sitting position. He swung his feet outof bed, set them with a ker-plop on the canvas floor of the tent.I could see him sitting