The watermelon heist
One summer about 1930 or 1931, when Sue was about 11 or 12 years old, she and her sister went to visit their cousins, Betty and Jimmie Lou Atkinson, daughters of their Uncle Frank and Aunt Inez Hunt Atkinson. Frank and Inez lived on River Street, just across the road from Scruggs’ Store in Cliffside.
Their Uncle John and Aunt Mamie Keeter Atkinson, who lived across the river from the mill, had a daughter who was named Elizabeth Ellen, but was always called “Sis,” since she was the only girl, with four older brothers. Sis was near Sue and Hazel’s age, and often came over to play while the girls were visiting with Betty and Jimmie Lou.
One day Sis came over and the five girls decided to walk out to the “country” and visit their Aunt Ivy Atkinson, who had married their Uncle Ol Atkinson. Sue’s cousins knew some short cuts, but it was still a long, hot walk. On a dirt road along the way, they passed a big watermelon patch where one watermelon, growing at the edge of the field near the road, had rolled off, and was hanging by its stem on the bank. It was a hot summer day, and the girls succumbed to temptation, pulling the watermelon from the stem, breaking it open, and eating it with their hands.
They finally arrived at their Uncle Ol’s, and were laughingly telling Ol and Ivy about taking a watermelon from a patch down the road and eating it, when Ol interrupted them. Knowing exactly which one they were talking about, since he had seen it himself in passing, he said “I hope you’re not talking about the one that was hanging down the bank, because that’s the one the farmer put poison in to get anybody who stole his watermelons.” Sue said every one of the girls, before they were told that Ol was teasing them, started feeling sick, sure that they had been poisoned.
While they were there, they were allowed to check Ol’s rabbit boxes for him. Sue excitedly ran to one, expecting to find a soft, furry bunny. Instead, she discovered a snarling, hissing ‘possum inside.