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The Observer, Aug. 5

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The Observer's Rich Uncle Alan, also known as El Jefe around the Arkansas Times, plants a big ol' garden every spring — a virtual Eden, chock full of heirloom tomatoes, peppers and other goodies. We're kind enough to take some of that off his hands every year, just so it doesn't go to waste, of course. Little known fact: As a long-time member of the Clean Plate Club, The Observer also holds dual membership in the Clean Bushel Club. Our motto: No Free Produce Left Behind!

There by the steps we spotted one of his famous crops, ripe for the taking by a city-dwelling ne'er-do-well: a rare "Moon and Stars" watermelon, a historic old variety once thought lost to the ages, but brought back by dedicated souls.

If God ever went to a church picnic, this is the watermelon He would bring, its hide a deep, uniform green, speckled randomly with white dots and smears of cream like the Milky Way sprawled over an improbable sky of moss. Split open, the flesh is as gold as true love, with the seeds all situated in a narrow band and easily pushed aside. We'd had a bit from a bowl inside during the party, and we already knew what it would taste like: sweet, firm, wholly incomparable to any other melon The Observer has ever had. Simply put, it is watermelon as watermelon should be, the most beautiful example of that noble gourd — inside and out — that we've ever encountered.

Alan's lovely wife successfully talked out of her bounty by this freeloading guest and The Boss in too fine a mood to say no, The Observer drove to our aunt's house a few miles away with God's watermelon resting cool and heavy on the seat next to our thigh. When we got there, The Observer and his kin marveled over the miracle of that lovely rind for awhile, then cleaved it and ate fully half at midnight, juice dripping off our elbows. The seeds, we carefully saved on a plate for later drying, heads full of the vines and star-strewn gardens of summers yet to come.

The Observer got bumped off a plane leaving Little Rock last week, because we had not got enough class. We've never been told that we were inferior, but it sure enough seemed like we were, because our plane ticket, while seeming wildly expensive to The Observer, had not cost enough to merit a seat. The calm gentleman at the gate said folks had paid as much as $2,000 for their tickets. Surely there is no flight to Atlanta that costs $2,000, especially when it's on one of those planes that require that you crab-walk down the aisle and then sit smushed up next to a stranger who might be a guy who'd set his underpants on fire, were he on a bigger plane. But anyway, we learned the airline flies those who've plunked down the most money, which makes economic if not moral sense, since they want to keep the reimbursements cheap.

During our travel, we noted that every flight we made (we got lucky and got out the following day) was overbooked and gate attendants, knowing they were about to get seared by the fiery tongues of flame of the bumped, pleaded for volunteers to give up their seats. Another calm gate attendant, while booking our new flight (and promising we'd get on the plane) explained there are always no-shows, so planes are always overbooked.

In fact, a Little Rock family — mother, father and two very young boys — on the first air leg of a move to Mexico were almost no-shows. They'd been detained at security while they and all of their bags were inspected. Apparently, if your family travels with a lot of luggage because you're moving away, you trigger some kind of security alert. When the family finally made it to the gate, just as the doors were about to close on them and their foreign travel plans, they were gently chided for being late. It's hoped they are in Mexico now, settling in, unbumped.

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