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[EDITOR’S NOTE – Clemson University Extension expert Tony Melton is a regular contributor to SPW. If you have an article you or idea you’d like to contribute, send it to us at info@southeastproduceweekly.com.

Tony Melton

While growing-up in the big city (ha!) of McBee, SC, my family was not much for celebrating holidays. But the 4th of July and Memorial Day were different, since my father was a decorated veteran of World War II. The way we celebrated was an early lesson in learning to love our water.

After working in the fields all day, we would usually head to our favorite swimming hole – everyone called it the “Power Pond.”

Rumor had it that during the War, there were electric generators in the spearway. All I know is that the spearway had a big metal cage surrounding it and we loved to climb to the top and dive into the cool water after a hot day of hoeing or picking vegetables.

The real deal

The only real excitement was when a water moccasin would go swimming by. And no matter what type of snake it was, we called them all water moccasins.

There are, in fact, 38 species of snake in South Carolina and only six are venomous. Of course all the girls would scream and we would all head to the spearway to get out of the water.

Help Assess The State Of Water Needs

Today with all the news about water quality, water availability, droughts, and floods there is a little more excitement about water and there are many different types of problems — what I still call “moccasins” — out there. The bottom line is that we all need to learn to love our water.

Clemson Extension is working to truly assess the state of water needs, use, and accessibility in South Carolina, as are extension services in other states. The bottom-line is that in-the-near-future many decisions will be made by the legislators, policy makers, and leaders on how water — our greatest resource — will be used.

Just guessing is not an option. We need scientific data and knowledge before any decisions are made. Therefore, we are working to complete and collect surveys of water use and future needs. So, when a county agent or researcher asks you to fill-out a survey or for information, please help.

When I was, as Daddy would say, “knee high to a grasshopper,” I slept on a small cot jammed between my parent’s bed and a window because there was a total of 10 of us and only three bedrooms in our home.

At the end of my bed was a small upright chiffonier which I thought contained all the secrets of the world.  Whenever I would get a chance like during the middle of the one of those “Pre-Air” days when it was like daddy would say “Too Blessed Hot to do anything else”, I would go foraging through all the treasures stored in that old chest.

I loved to reminisce over and guess who was in all those old black and white photographs.  One of my favorite pictures was of a young, strapping Army boy with his loaded pack standing on a pair of skis in deep snow.   Becoming a ski trooper deployed in Italy in WW II had to be tough for my dad, a flatland S.C. boy, where snow is rarer than a cold day in July.

Alive Thanks To An Ink Pen…

Unless he got mad, Daddy was a quiet man, and he seldom talked about his war times.  However, I would listen wide-eyed when my brothers and sisters expounded about all the war memorabilia stored in that chest.

The string of machine gun rounds ignited my imagination of how Daddy fought hard against Hitler’s and Mussolini’s armies. The Italian and other foreign coins took me around the world in my dreams. The pump-up flashlight —oh, it must have been dark during those long nights. The fold-out camera brought Daddy’s war to me.

But I puzzled over the pen wrapped in electrical tape in the special heavy-duty pen case.  My siblings told me about when Daddy’s squad was in a real fight and the bullets were flying.  The bullet heading for my Dad’s heart hit and ricocheted off the pen in his shirt pocket.

This explained the other reinforced box in the chest which held my father’s Purple Heart.  I am alive because of the ink pen in my father’s shirt pocket.

The Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to people of all ages, regardless of race, color, gender, religion, national origin, disability, political belief, sexual orientation, gender identity, marital or family status and is an equal opportunity employer.

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