Mr. Grady Rose traded hogs and raised watermelons, a brilliant plan. During that period, Bossier Parish, Louisiana, had open range laws. That meant livestock was free to roam, decreasing the responsibility of the farmer and making driving after dark a challenge. Motorists were responsible for damages, should they be careless enough to hit one. Black livestock presented a real challenge at night since they were cloaked in invisibility. Passengers, as well as the driver, watched for livestock. The ever present threat of livestock certainly cut down on speeding. Contrary to what you might expect, accidents were rare.
The point of this story is that Mr. Grady was deeply involved in the hog business, a vocation that required a great deal of work, but little cash outlay. Since he had captive labor in his four boys, it was an ideal career choice. The hogs ran wild in the woods, feeding on acorns and other vegetation. In the spring he baited catch pens in the woods with corn and caught the sows with his mark in their ears when their litter was young. He cut his mark in the piglets ears, castrated the males, and turned them loose to grow. It was a grave offense to tamper with animals with another man’s mark. Marks were well-known by other hog farmers in the community, so word was passed on to neighbors what part of the woods a man’s hogs had recently occupied, making it easier to track them. Of course, one couldn’t expect to harvest all the hogs bearing his mark, but it was a good crop. No man wanted word to get around that his mark was found on young pigs following a sow with another man’s mark. Men have been shot for that!
A few months later, the pens were baited again to catch the unneeded sows, castrated males for slaughter or personal use, or take to market. Uncastrated adult males, or boars were not good eating, due to their hormone load. Catching the hogs was dangerous business. Adult males had sharp, curved tusks and fought fiercely, especially when penned up. They’d also attack in the woods. Hog hunting was considered fine sport by many. Once captured, Mr. Rose penned hogs up in pens at his farm to fatten. That’s where the melons came in. They were a cheap, abundant crop, easily harvested. The hungry hogs gorged on the fat melons that burst as they hit the ground. It looked for all the world like a bloody battle as they squealed, grunted, and gobbled their way aggressively through the heap. I never got enough of watching.
Mother usually bought melons from peddlers who drove through the neighborhood selling from the back of their truck. One kid would flag while the others ran around like mad trying to find enough change to purchase a melon which commonly sold for a dollar, but if the peddler came at the end of the day and wanted to unload, we might get two for a dollar. I never got satisfied on melon and would eat as close into the rind as possible, trying to get every sweet taste. I was stunned to see Mr. Grady split a fine melon, pass the heart to one of the watching kids, and toss the rest to the hogs. I’d never experienced such luxury.