Coal Pitts
by Alice Stratton

EDITOR'S NOTE: "Coal Pitts" was originally published in Friend, August 1990, p. 27.

The article is also available online at:

The article is reprinted here with permission.

Whosoever shall call on the name of the Lord shall be delivered (Joel 2:32).

“Just look at you, Matthew—you’re growing like a weed,” Uncle Clinton said. “Pretty soon you’ll be as big as I am.”

Giggling, I spread out my fingers. “I’m only six, and I won’t be as big as you are for a long, long time because you must be a hundred.”

Uncle Clinton threw back his head and laughed.

Grandpa laughed too. Uncle Clinton and Grandpa grow the best dry-farm watermelons out on Coal Pitts. Grandpa made a pond out there, but whenever my brother Raymond—he’s four—and I come visiting in the summer, all we ever see in it is dried-up mud. Grandpa promised us that if the pond ever has enough water in it to float a duck, we can take Luckus and Luella with us to Coal Pitts.

Luckus is a he duck, and Luella is a she duck. When Grandpa turns the canal water onto his irrigated farm in LaVerkin, Raymond and I climb right into the ditch with our ducks and have a splashing good time.

One hot afternoon, big clouds appeared from nowhere and got right down to the business of raining. Raymond and I were excited. We watched through the window, and Grandpa recited, “The lightning flashed and the thunder roared and the little pig lay down and snored.”

The storm passed by LaVerkin, and the sky above Coal Pitts got purplish black.

Grandpa said, “It looks like Coal Pitts is getting a regular gully washer. We might get some water in the pond.”

The next day, when Grandpa figured that the dirt road was dry enough, he said, “Let’s take a little run out to Coal Pitts.”

“Oh boy!” I exclaimed. “Can Luckus and Luella go too? Can they?”

“You’re sort of a funny duck yourself,” Grandpa laughed.

“I’m a boy, Grandpa. Luckus and Luella are ducks.”

“Really?” he teased. “OK, let’s round up the boys and the ducks.”

While Grandma packed a lunch, Grandpa put Luckus and Luella into a wooden crate and set it in the back of the pickup. Just then Aunt Lillian drove up and asked Grandpa if we were going to the dry farm. She said that Uncle Clinton had forgotten his lunch bucket and asked us to take it to him. Grandpa put it beside the crate in the pickup. Grandma brought out the picnic basket, and we all got into the truck and went chugging up the hill.

The rainstorm had filled Grandpa’s pond plumb full. We turned Luckus and Luella loose, and they skimmed over to that water as happy as if they were floating right into heaven. Raymond and I started to go after them.

“Hold it, you fellows,” Grandpa said. “Don’t you want to come with me to take Uncle Clinton his lunch bucket? He’ll be wondering where it is.”

“I think I’ll stay and pick us some roasting ears,” Grandma said. “There’s a fine row of corn alongside our own melon patch.”

Uncle Clinton was mighty glad to see his lunch bucket. He was picking a load of melons to take to town. He wasn’t starving, because he was full of melon, but he said that a piece of fried chicken would be mighty tasty too.

Grandpa was just getting back into the pickup when Uncle Clinton said, “Before you go, I’d like you to see my golden honey melons.”

We followed him up the hillside toward the cedars. He took out his pocketknife and speared a dark green watermelon. It popped open to the touch. The inside of that melon wasn’t red like all the rest, but a bright gold—almost an orange color. He cut a slice for each of us. Mmmm! How juicy and sweet it was!

When Grandpa finally left, I talked him into letting Raymond and me walk back.

“Go ahead and explore if you want to,” Grandpa said. “You know the way back to the pond.”

Uncle Clinton sliced off another piece of melon for each of us. We ate until we were as full as toads; then we went exploring. We had barely gone around the first bend, when a jackrabbit ran in front of us and we took off after him up a little gully that twisted and turned. Then we lost sight of him. After that we played hide-and-seek in some tall bushes that were loaded with yellow flowers—rabbit brush, Grandma calls them. We decided to pick some for Grandma and became so interested that we wandered all over the gully. Finally we climbed to the top of it, where we expected to see Grandpa’s pickup and his melon patch. But all we could see were more hills and gullies.

We just stood and stared, trying to decide which way to go. Raymond thought that we should go back. I thought that we should go ahead, so I coaxed him to go over the next little hill with me. When we got there, we saw the same thing—more gullies and hills.

Raymond started to cry. I wanted to cry, too, but I knew that it would only make him cry harder. If I was as big as Uncle Clinton said, I’d better think of something. Raymond was beginning to really howl, and I had to say something. So I said, “Don’t cry, Raymond. Maybe a helicopter will fly over and see us.”

Then a really good idea popped into my head: Heavenly Father knows where we are. He can see us all the time. I looked up, and my voice choked a little when I said, “Heavenly Father, we’re lost. Please help us find the way back to Grandpa’s melon patch.”

At that very minute I heard the sweetest sound. Looking up again, I said, “Thanks a lot, Heavenly Father.” Then I turned and said, “Raymond, quit crying and listen.”

He snuffled a couple of times quieting down; then we both heard it! Prettier than any songbird’s song came “Quack, quack, quack.”

We ran toward the sound. We had to go down one more little dip and over one more rise. But from the top of it, we could see Grandpa in his watermelon patch and Grandma shucking corn next to it. The quacking and splashing became louder and happier, and we ran through the rocks and brush like a couple of lizards.

“It’s about time you two showed up,” Grandma said, pushing back the hair from her face. “Your grandpa and I have about starved waiting for you so that we could unpack the lunch basket.”

Luckus and Luella had waddled out of the pond at the sight of us. I was real hungry, but before I could eat, I just had to hug a couple of ducks.