WESTFIELD — Opal Hill has lived in and been a part of the South Westfield community for 43 years. This year, sparked in part by a surprise watermelon vine, she has been reminded again of the comfort and cheer that can be found in good neighbors and friends and the simple wonders of nature.
Hill, 81, had lived with her husband, Ted Hill, in the small community on the outskirts of Pilot Mountain until his death in late February of this year. The two shared 56 years of marriage and had raised one son, Bryan, who now resides in Hewitt, Texas. Though miles away, Bryan Hill stays in frequent contact with his mother and visits as often as possible.
While now confined to an electric wheelchair, Opal Hill has maintained mobility about her home and stays busy with a variety of crafts and hobbies. She enjoys sewing, canning and collecting anything with a “Rooster” motif and has a passion for the outdoors.
She is helped in her love of landscaping by longtime family friend Thomas Hickman, neighbors Max and Peggy Taylor and others from the community.
It was during a spring morning of putting out flowers in the back of her home that Hill and Peggy Taylor saw a small plant “not much bigger than your thumb” sprouting from the ground near the rear of her home. Taylor’s first instinct was to pull and discard the plant, thinking it to be a weed, but Hill asked her to let it grow.
“She’s been blessed with a very green thumb,” Taylor said of Hill, “and she thought this might be a cucumber. Human nature likes a tender touch and she has that. I’ve seen her just scatter seeds and something beautiful always seems to come up.”
In the following weeks, the tiny sprout gradually revealed itself as a watermelon plant. While not fertilizing the plant, Hill made sure it was watered regularly and it grew steadily. A watermelon soon developed and grew throughout the summer at an impressive rate.
Hearing of the plant, neighbors often dropped by to check on Hill and on the watermelon’s growth. As it continued to grow, the large melon became a topic of conversation and interest in the small community.
The interest and support of neighbors has helped Hill through a difficult summer, dealing with the loss of her husband. Watching over the melon has proven to be a pleasant distraction. Hill fondly recalls that watermelon was always a favorite treat for her husband.
Two more melons have appeared in recent weeks, joining the now impressive-sized original. Taylor has playfully dubbed the first melon “Gertrude,” and now refers to the quickly developing later melons as “Gertrude’s babies.”
While the trio of melons is still growing, Hill is looking forward to when they ripen and can be pulled. She hopes to host a “watermelon party” for friends and neighbors who have helped her monitor the melons’ surprising growth with all enjoying the fruits of their labor.
“This has been good for me,” Hill said. “It’s brightened my summer.”
Dean Palmer may be reached at 336-351-4131 or firstname.lastname@example.org.