As time was winding down before the contest, I wanted to talk with legendary Lee Wheelis, the man who set the world record in 1989.
"Like any legend, he sometimes doesn't show up," one Luling resident told me.
But he did, and he told me the story of his famous spit.
"It was a lot of luck," said Wheelis, who has been spitting watermelon seeds since he was a young child.
Wheelis' best advice was to pick the largest and roundest seed and put a little bit of melon in the mouth to make it moist.
The contest kicked off with "Ode to the Watermelon," a song sung a cappella by the locals. After a lottery pared the list of about 100 potential participants down to 47, it was time to spit.
Unlike the cow-chip throw, where I threw near the beginning of the contest, I was spitter No. 36. I watched closely as two spitters surpassed 38 feet with their seeds.
When my turn came up, I wanted to be bold and brash. Despite the fact that two watermelons had been sliced open and still contained plenty of seeds, I grabbed the mike and requested that they cut open a new one.
They obliged, surprisingly.
I took a small piece of melon to moisten my mouth, as Wheelis had suggested, and picked out two seeds from the huge Black Diamond watermelon.
I put one in my mouth.
I curled my tongue around it.
I leaned back.
And I blew.
The seed sank, traveling a measly 7 feet. The crowd laughed.
|Watermelon Seed Spitting: Top 5|
1. Randy White, 49 feet.
2. Rob Maley, 38 feet, 10 inches.
3. Jim McKinney, 38 feet, 3 inches.
4. Steve Tronzano, 38 feet.
5. Darren Rovell, 37 feet, 6 inches.
As I put the second seed in my mouth, I concentrated on what I'd done right in my practice sessions. And I remembered how disappointed I'd been on my way home from Beaver and my flop as a chip thrower.
Seed in the mouth.
Curled the tongue.
The thing soared through the air, landed at about 30 feet, then rolled another 7 1/2 feet. I was in third place! The crowd cheered.
By the time the field finished spitting, I'd slipped to fifth. But I beat Richard Clay Robbins. And I beat the legend himself, the world-record holder, Lee Wheelis.
And forever more, I can claim that in 2005, I was the fifth-best watermelon-seed spitter. In the whole wide world.
Darren Rovell, who writes sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.firstname.lastname@example.org. He charges $150 an hour for watermelon-seed spitting lessons.