Fact or fiction?

Published 8:48 am Friday, July 25, 2014

Everyone, especially here in Washington Parish, has his or her own method for determining whether a watermelon is ripe.

Thumping and listening for a hollow sound is a popular one. So is checking the part where the melon connects to the plant and looking for a brown tendril. Some people swear by checking the underside of the melon for a creamy yellow color. But one of the strangest has to be laying a broom straw across the melon so it sits perpendicular to the melon’s striping. According to this method, if the straw moves so that it lines itself up with the melon lengthwise, then the melon is ripe.

John Gallaspy, who is famous in these parts for his watermelons among other endeavors, demonstrated to the Rotary Club of Bogalusa Tuesday that the last method may not be as far fetched as it sounds.

Substituting a straight piece of metal wire with a little flag on the end to increase visibility, Gallaspy placed the wire on the first watermelon. With the undivided attention of those Rotary members in attendance, the wire began to wiggle and eventually made it’s way almost to the 90-degree mark — almost, but not quite. That, according to Gallaspy, meant the melon was a little over ripe.

Sure enough, when he split the melon open, his prediction was correct.

When the next melon was put to the test, the Rotary members watched in amazement as the wire spun to the desired position. And again, the wire’s movement proved to be a good indicator of the watermelon’s ripeness.

This demonstration was part of the Rotary Club’s annual watermelon presentation, which featured Gallaspy and his partner in watermelon cultivation, Mickey Murphy.

According to Gallaspy, it was not a good year for the “Murphy-Gallaspy Syndicate.”

“I raised my first batch of melons 71 years ago,” said Gallaspy, adding he had never in all that time seen a May, June and July like this year’s. “Mickey and I had a crop failure.”

Gallaspy said it was the frequent, flooding rains that spelled doom for this year’s watermelon crop.

Gallaspy and Murphy brought much of what they could salvage to Tuesday’s meeting, and those in attendance got the chance to sample the watermelons, which this year included a new variety developed by Bayer Agroscience never before grown in Washington Parish.

“The Murphy-Gallaspy Syndicate, as I call it, has a new melon,” said Gallaspy.

Gallaspy’s granddaughters helped serve the watermelons and even made some snoballs, featuring watermelon as one of the three flavors, naturally, to the Rotary Club.

Prior to the watermelon program, Rotary members heard from David Seal and Destin Pittman, who the club sponsored for Louisiana Boys State this year.