Andrew Dys

Hickory Grove man eyes watermelon record

Rodney Emory stands beside the 161-pound watermelon he bought in Hope, Ark.
Rodney Emory stands beside the 161-pound watermelon he bought in Hope, Ark.

It was not enough for Rodney Emory of Hickory Grove to order watermelon seeds from Hope, Ark., the place that grew the world record Carolina Cross watermelon of 268.8 pounds two years ago.

Emory grew a Black Diamond watermelon this year that weighs 75 pounds. He's grown watermelons that weighed 104 pounds in 1981 and 99 pounds in 1980. He's showed them off to anybody who would look.

"The 99-pounder, I held on to both ends for a picture and had to say, 'Hurry up, this thing doesn't have any handles,'" Emory said.

But he wants more. He wants a record.

He could have used the mail. These expensive seeds -- as much as $15 bucks for a dozen seeds -- can be shipped.

But Emory drove about 1,700 miles, round-trip, to Hope for the annual Watermelon Festival to get the seeds in person.

But seeds alone weren't enough. The retired truck driver walked out into the watermelon field at the farm where the record melon was grown and he bought the biggest watermelon he found there in Hope, where both big melons and Bill Clinton come from.

The watermelon weighs 161 pounds. More than 34 inches long, tip to tip.

How much he paid for it is a secret.

He put it in his 2003 Mercury Grand Marquis and drove it home to Hickory Grove. The melon sat on the leather back seat.

"It never budged," Emory said.

His wife sat in the front seat.

"Easy choice," said Emory, who is somebody who knows the right thing to say.

That wife of 44 years, Brenda, told me she would rather go to Charleston for a weekend than Arkansas, but she's willing to give up one long weekend for her husband to shoot for fame in the melon patch.

"He's 65, and it keeps him out of trouble," Brenda Emory said. "He said he's going to use the growing tips he picked up in Hope."

Rodney has showed off that 161-pound melon since he bought it. Henry Nunnery, the retired Clemson University agriculture extension agent who worked with York County farmers for more than 30 years, saw the melon.

"Biggest I've ever seen," Nunnery said.

Arthur Black, a lifetime of growing produce in York, said the biggest he ever saw was about 90 pounds.

I called the S.C. Watermelon Association to find out what the record is for the South Carolina, and Martin Eubanks there told me there are no state records for watermelon, to his knowledge.

Now that Emory has his watermelon, he has to get the seeds ready for next year. He'll dry them out for about three weeks, then put them in the freezer.

And wait for next summer to hopefully show off a little bit, but this time from his own watermelon patch.