Quest for Mellon
“Coke’s tasty, but all that sugar just gets in your belly and starts radiating heat like a blacksmith’s forge. It just cools you for a second, then it’s hotter than ever. Who else has got one?”
Hevs had eight or 10 kids lined up now, at the foot of the porch in front of the guard tower. He was by far the biggest guard on the force, and he had a personality and a sense of play to go with it.
Little April Thompson offered as to how when she came home from school, her Mommy would give her some ice cold milk right out of the fridge.
Hevs allowed as to the tastiness and healthfulness of milk, but on a day as hot as this one, you can’t be making that phlegm and stuff in your throat too hard to get your breath in this heat.
Bobby Story stepped to the front with that he figured to be a real winner. “How about an ice cold glass of water?”
“That’s the best answer yet,” bellowed Hevs. “The major problem with water, however, is it’s too liquid-y. Once it gets into the old stomach, it warms right up. It cools you going down through, if it’d just stay cool in the belly for a while.”
“Those were all great answers,” acknowledged Hevs, “but it looks like nobody wins the dime today. Are you kids ready for the answer?”
“Yes, yes!” The assembled group was intense with desire. If schools had teachers half as interesting as Hevs, they’d all be little Einsteins.
“But first, Jimmy, take this beach towel into the tower and get it real wet with cold water. These kids are burning up in this heat. They need to wipe down their brows. I don’t want any heat prostration on a day like this.”
“Yeah, a wet towel!” The kids clamored at the edge of the porch to be the first to get that cool wet towel and wipe down their brows, as Jimmy, Hevs’ fellow lifeguard, sauntered back with the dripping towel and a suppressed grin. He retired to the back of the porch with a couple of other guards and watched in awe as the “master” created another brilliant piece of diversion and a heck of a lot of fun for the kids and the observers.
“Alright troops. Here’s your answer. Watermelon.”
The kids’ mouths were agape and one of the bigger kids suggested that heck, that wasn’t even liquid!
“Aha,” shouted Hevs. “That’s the beauty of it. It’s water, so it’s cool going in and down (demonstrating physically as he explained), and then because it’s also a solid, it sits there in your stomach and keeps you cool. Yes sir, ice cold watermelon! Any time it gets hot like this, the guards always head right for the icebox and the ice cold watermelon.”
Bobby Story was darn near in tears when he kicked the sand and wailed that he sure wished that he had some right now, it was just so hot!
Hevs calmed him down and told the rest of the group (which had now grown to about 12) to get a grip and he’d have Jimmy to take a look in the icebox to see if there was any watermelon left.
Jimmy disappeared into the tower and returned empty handed.
“It was so hot this morning, I guess the guards ate it all!”
The kids were beside themselves. Here Hevs was trying to get them cooled off and those other guards had eaten all the melon.
Hevs seemed momentarily defeated, and he shared with the kids his concern with a, “Now what are we going to do?”
Brayton, a 12 year old, was the fastest runner, so he told Hevs that if he gave him some money, he’d run over to Carpenters and get one.
“It’ll have to be ice cold, none of that stuff on the fruit stand. It’s got to be in the ice locker where they keep the milk and stuff.”
Hevs handed him $2 and told him to get one of those “snake” melons. They’re the biggest and best. We want enough for everybody.
Brayton ran off like a young Jesse Owens, and Hevs held court with the assembled kids, regaling them with tales of how on more than one occasion, the only thing between collapsing of profound heat prostration was an ice cold slice of that delicious sweet red melon. The guards would use melon as much as sun tan oil.
Just then, a triumphant Brayton emerged on the boardwalk hefting a giant sized “snake” melon.
“Oh my golly!” says Hevs, “finally!”
Brayton set the melon on the porch of the tower, and Hevs sent Jimmy for a butcher knife. As he prepared to plunge in the blade, he stopped.
“This melon isn’t ice cold. It’s no good at all. It’s just too hot for this kind of a melon. Did you get it out of the cold locker?”
Brayton sheepishly admitted that he hadn’t, but that it was the only kind they had, and there weren’t any more stores around.
The audience on the boardwalk was growing and growing. Even old man Carpenter was peeking his head around the guard tower to watch some of the show.
Hevs leaped to his feet and waved his huge arms. “Alright, that’s it. These kids are going to start dropping like flies if we can’t get a cold watermelon. I was hoping not to have to do it this way, but I have no choice. First kid that brings me a proper witchin’ stick gets the biggest hunk of melon.”
Nine year old Diana Gleed was eager, but had to ask, “What’s a witching stick, Mr. Hevs?”
“What’s a…a witchin’ stick is used to douse for water. It’s a Y-shaped branch. You hold the two ends till the long end turns down, then you know you got water or watermelon.”
The frantic rush was on as the poor heat stroke victims raced to find a proper stick. They spread out from Bird Rock to Hotel Laguna, others were crawling under the boardwalk, still others ran down Ocean Avenue to that stand of eucalyptus trees over by the playhouse. Kids were bringing in enough sticks to start a bonfire rally up at the high school.
Hevs would examine each stick in turn but this one didn’t ‘feel’ right, this one was too crooked, and this one was too fresh off the tree.
Finally, he found his witchin’ stick, a perfect grey driftwood of a witchin’ stick, just perfect for watermelon.
After cautioning all the kids to “stand clear,” he tested his stick on the “warm” snake melon, and, to the kids’ delight, it turned down almost instantly. Here indeed, was a perfect watermelon witchin’ stick!
“Okay, sports fans, let’s go get us a watermelon. I can’t take this heat another minute.” And with that, Hevs was off, cautioning the kids to stay well behind him, ‘cause too much impact on the ground might destroy the “seismic” readings.
The group had now swelled to about 20 and looked for all the world like the Pied Piper leading his band of children through Hamlin.
First, he was drawn by his dowsing rod to the fire hydrant down on the Coast Highway in front of The Broiler.
Hevs offered as to how strong a source that hydrant must be to have swayed the witchin’ stick to its spot. The magnetism of the stick now drew the little crowd into the Rexall Soda counter and zeroed in on the water tap where the soda jerk filled folk’ water glasses. Hevs reckoned that he might be a little out of practice, and these sources had such strong magnetism, but they’d soon have a melon.
After the magic stick had taken the crowd to another false hope (the drinking fountain by Ship Ahoy), Hevs began to feel a mighty tug. “This is it!” shouted Hevs. “The stick is sensing a melon.”
The stick threw Hevs to the ground and twisted him this way and that, but Hevs would not release his grip. The children stood in awe, not having known how violent and forceful a really fine “melon stick” can get. It began to drag poor Hevs towards the ocean, and Hevs cried out, “It’s too powerful for me, it’s taking me to the source of all water, the ocean!”
The children all feared for Hevs and a few tried to help hold him back, but the force was too strong and he writhed and grunted and strained towards the sea. The stick remained straight as an arrow towards the ocean, and then…on the wet sand, right before the waterline, that magic stick turned straight down like a bolt of lightening and Hevs, exhausted and torn, proclaimed “Bingo! We’ve got our melon!”
And so they had, and little Ross Cox who had found the proper stick was rewarded with two pieces of melon, and all the children proclaimed this was the finest and sweetest melon they’d ever eaten and exclaimed how much cooler they felt. Some spoke about the mysterious stick, and some said how brave Hevs was, what a battle he’d put up, and Hevs, after serving every last kid, took the last piece, and roared his thankfulness that finally, he could “cool off!”
Bill Sorrells grew up in Laguna Beach and recently returned here to retire.