How to pick a great watermelon? One idea: Scoop up the Thump Master’s second choice!

Everyone’s a (fruit) critic!
Including: Games people play

Fevered Rabbit writes: “Subject: Thump Master.

“My dad grew up on a farm in central California where they grow melons (and much else). He was an expert at picking the perfectly ripe watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew or other.


“I did not learn his secrets. Grumbling Bear doesn’t really know how to pick a melon, either, but has been quite lucky at somehow coming home with some great fruit.

“Last watermelon season when they were on sale, I sent Grumbling Bear to buy one for us. He went to the local grocery store and found a large display of melons. He started hefting the pepos, thumping them, trying to figure out if any of them was good and ripe for us to eat that day.

He noticed a woman standing nearby watching what he was doing. Without making any sign that he had seen her, he became a showman. He gave several melons a cursory whack, then narrowed his choices to two. He thumped one watermelon, tipping his head to hear the sound it made. Then he thumped the other. He went back and forth between the two fruits — sometimes giving a hard knock, sometimes a softer. Between bops, he would tip his head and ponder.

“Finally he picked one melon and placed it in his cart. As he walked away, he saw the watching woman quickly grab the other and put it in her cart.

“Our melon was great. I hope hers was, too.”

Live and learn!
Including: Everyone’s a (fruit) critic! (responsorial)

Black Ewe writes: “Unlike Al B [BB, 4/10/2017], we Dunn kids never engaged in the purloining of pears — perhaps because no pear trees grew in our chunk of Clay County. However, just over the fence line in the East Forty, from a neighbor’s pasture beckoned the only apple tree on the section. Though its apples were often shot through with worms, the ancient tree was the site for our regular post-chore raids. Each of us having fallen victim to rapid descents triggered by climbing old trees with rotted branches, we were leery of traditional methods of getting at the sweet, red-ripe apples that always grew just beyond our reach. Shaking the branches produced little for our efforts. We routinely wearied our arms hurling windfall apples in hopes of knocking free the more desirable fruit.

“On one of the many occasions when we were left to our own devices with no adult supervision and unrestricted access to farm equipment, we had a brainstorm that perhaps the little Ford tractor, with the scoop bucket fully extended like a cherry picker, might just put us in reach of our hearts’ desire.

“In our minds, the Ford was the kids’ tractor, so it wasn’t like we were really doing anything bad. We’d all learned to drive her. However, being a pony version of a tractor (contrasted to Dad’s Clydesdale of a Massey-Ferguson), we couldn’t all ride on it at once. We concluded that rather than force anyone to walk or, worse, get left out, we could all make the journey if some of us rode in the scoop bucket.

“I suppose the top speed of the Ford N-8 was in the range of the mid single-digits. She wasn’t built for speed, but for ignoble tasks of scooping manure out of the barnyard and using her power take-off to operate other equipment. In the back of our minds, I suppose we might have been a bit ill at ease with our decision. Still, four of us clambered into the hydraulic scoop bucket while brother Tubby took controls.

“Even with the bucket full extended, the good apples were still just out of reach — but near enough that we could knock some down by swinging dead branches. The scene was reminiscent of a piñata at a birthday party. Goodies at last!

“Satiated, we turned homeward, once again with Tubby at the controls. Apparently feeling a little juiced by our success, Tubby decided to give us the Rossie (Iowa) version of an amusement-park ride. Driving at full tilt — perhaps 6 mph — he began to raise and lower the bucket while we, his four captive siblings, clung for our lives, screaming in both fear and delight. Up and down the hydraulic arms went; fore and aft tipped the bucket. Six Flags Ride, Beta Version 1.0.

“This ride had a grand finale. Rounding a sharp turn that paralleled the farmyard, and distracted by the demands of the multiple hydraulic machinations, Tubby swung wide on the corner. With the scoop fully extended upward, he drove the wee tractor over an enormous coil of rolled up wire fencing about six feet in diameter. We bucket-riders were suddenly thrust heavenward, seeing nothing of terra firma and with an alarmingly unobstructed view of the deep-blue Iowa sky. By some suspension of the laws of physics, the merry little Ford popped right over and down the fencing roll, coming down quite steadily on all four tires as if the roll of fencing had been a mere bump in a field.

“The silence wrought by our collective near-death experience was accompanied by the slow, stately lowering of the bucket. We quietly rolled into the farmyard, never to speak of it again for better than 15 years. Then, in the telling of it during a post-Thanksgiving-dinner food coma, we were still nearly beaten for it. Mom and Dad’s outrage was in no small measure fueled by the specter of the exorbitant cost of four or five caskets and associated funerals, had the laws of physics played out as they should have.

“I’ve never really trusted science since. I know it doesn’t work.”

Our theater of seasons

Mounds View Swede has sent us “four early-spring photos from 2015”:

“When I see a daffodil in bloom like this one, I think of a trumpeter blasting out the signal that it is time to get up and get blooming. Open up now!


“These were just getting ready.


“And these were going at it.


“When I look at this photo, I think of ‘Whee!’ (an exuberant response).”


The Permanent Grandsonly Record

Mrs. Mouse: “My 4-year-old grandson, Grant, is going to a preschool class at the Zoo. Each child was able to do an informative talk. Grant was given dairy farming as his subject to share. I have friends who have a large dairy farm, and several months ago we took my four grandsons to visit and see how it operates. They milk about 300 cows three times a day, and we were able to see an afternoon milking. It was a very interesting tour; not really sure who enjoyed it more — the kids or the adults.

“This was something Grant really knew about, so he told his story. At the end, he asked if there were any questions. One little boy raised his hands and asked why cows are different colors. Grant’s reply: ‘Well, that’s how they are made.’

“So there you go. Now we know.”

Out of the mouths of babes

Peggy T of Osceola, Wisconsin: “Five-year-old Zoey was hungry. She said: ‘I am so hungry, I could eat a deer.’

“Zoey’s mom: ‘The expression is: “I am so hungry, I could eat a horse”‘

“Zoey: ‘That doesn’t make any sense. No one eats a horse. A deer makes much more sense.'”

BULLETIN BOARD WONDERS: Did Zoey’s mom explain why ‘. . . eat a horse’ makes perfect sense?

What is wrong with people? (responsorial)
Or: They’re out there!

OTD from NSP: “From BB on Wednesday, April 12:

What is wrong with people?

Lola reports: ‘I’m still shaking my head about this.

“’On Sunday morning, I was on my way to church, driving eastbound on Highway 36. Took the Dale Street exit toward southbound Dale; the traffic light at the bottom of the ramp was red, and there were two cars ahead of me waiting to take a left turn onto Dale. The driver of the first car didn’t want to wait, or thought traffic laws don’t apply, so he or she took a left through a red light onto Dale.

“’Still shaking my head.’

“I see this all the time around Maplewood Mall at red arrows, not blinking amber. Seems to be a habit in the East Metro, where I do most of my city driving.

“I was stopped in the left-turn lane at Buerkle Road and White Bear Avenue, on a red arrow, and the car behind laid on the horn, went around me on the right and made the left turn. Noticed the left-turn thing a few cars ahead of me at Highway 61 and County D: Light was red, and two cars made a left turn.

“I have observed that four-way stops are just suggestions to many people. If a car is not at the stop sign (just approaching), the first car there can just go through (and maybe the car behind them).

“Running the yellow/red light has also become normal. I have been stopped at a red light and a car goes through in the next lane. Or the light has turned green for, say, north/south traffic, and there has to be one east/west driver that has to run their red. I understand that at some intersections, there is a delay from when a light turns red to when the opposite traffic light turns green, to account for this.

“These are just a few examples of why drivers hesitate at intersections and four-way stops, not sure  whether or not they are going to get broadsided.

“This is not just for OTD people. My 16-year-old granddaughter was at a stop sign and had cars pass her on the right and left side (intersection had left- and right-turn lanes). She is a new driver who still obeys the speed limit, and I guess she was just going too slow for them. I was with her when this happened, as I had picked her up and she was driving my car. Both the cars passing had ‘adult’ drivers, not kids.

“These people are not wearing hats; they just have no brains or regard for others. I do not have a solution, except to drive with caution and expect the worst of others. [Bulletin Board says: Au contraire, ma’am. That IS the solution!]

“I am sure other BB people have similar tales. There are some streets I now avoid if I can, because of certain intersections.

“Thank you for letting me be on my soapbox about irritating behavior.”

Our times

Dr. Chrysanthemum writes: “Subject: Is all right with the world? Even if you can’t trust Thomas Magnum, look to the eagles!

“Sometimes it seems as though the world has gone crazy.

I’m sure you know what I mean. The Pioneer Press runs a multi-week feature on an ‘empty-nester’ home that is the size of a small hotel, with two connected wings. Tom Selleck appears in a reverse-mortgage commercial and tries to persuade us that a chair with four legs is more stable (less wobbly) than a stool with three legs. What next?

“But there is some reassurance from the natural world. I can still go out in our back yard (in St. Paul) and occasionally see a bald eagle overhead (or roosting in our tree). Hawks fly around our neighborhood, and we often see one or two perched on a highway light post. Owls perch in nearby trees and hoot at each other. My wife and I can go to a nearby suburban lake and see more eagles, sometimes alone and sometimes in pairs (once as a trio), groups of swans, an infrequent osprey, occasional loons, and of course lots of mallards and Canada geese. We can see several nearby active eagle nests; we passed four in the last week just driving to places in the Twin Cities. And flocks of turkeys appear here and there. Driving to the aforementioned lake one day last month, we saw more than two dozen turkeys running across a busy road.

“Frogs and toads still trill, peep, croak, and creak in ponds and wetlands. I found a tree frog in our back yard last year (the first time I found an anuran other than a leopard frog or American toad there).

“Deer are a little scarcer in the neighborhood; I haven’t seen any small herds run across the street or find tracks in the snow for several years. But that may not be all bad, because there is a little too much traffic around here, and deer can be belligerent if you surprise them. Rabbits still appear everywhere, although we no longer see the odd little bunny who used to jump straight up. And both white and black squirrels seem to be relatively common again, after a few years when they seemed scarcer.

“It’s reassuring to know that some things are still the same, or maybe better than they used to be.

“And come to think of it, maybe my wife and I could use a hotel-sized empty nest to house all of our stuff. Tom Selleck will never convince me that three-legged stools are wobbly, however, unless the seat or the legs aren’t properly attached. (He seems like such a nice guy, too. But did you know he killed more than 50 people on ‘Magnum, P.I.’? Look it up.)”

Band Name of the Day: The Laws of Physics

Law Firm of the Day: Trill, Peep, Croak & Creak

Website of the Day: Smith System Training — 5 Keys of Defensive Driving


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