Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX


July 11, 2014

Palestine man grows 82-pound watermelon

PALESTINE — A whopper.

That's what local resident Alton “Junior” Doucette had on his hands last week, when he discovered the little watermelon seed he planted in March had matured into a full-grown fruit fit for a giant.

We're talking Jack-and-the-beanstalk giant – 82 pounds. Lengthwise, the circumference runs 64 inches around, while its middle measures at 44 inches.

Doucette, 67, said it came as a surprise to him. He said he has managed a couple of 60 pounders in the past, but nothing quite this big.

“This thing is huge,” his daughter Pam Parker told the Herald-Press. “He only planted two (watermelon) plants. But his garden has just gotten bigger and bigger.”

The retired resident said “it's just a hobby” he likes to dabble with, one he has had more time to piddle with since retiring. His 80-by-80 foot garden plot is nestled on the property spread over four acres, and includes everything any Peter Rabbit could ever dream or hope for.

“I grow a garden every year, and I grow a few watermelons,” he said. That – along with tomatoes, corn, squash, cucumbers, okra, peppers, grapes, peaches, plums, blackberries, blueberries, apples and more, such as “mushmelons” (for those who don't know, Doucette said that's a melon similar to a cantaloupe — but sweeter!)

As for the watermelons, he said he did something a little different this year, “because it's been so dry.

“I had to use so much water.”

Doucette put plastic down on the ground and installed a drip system underneath to irrigate the plants.

Typically, he said he spends anywhere from 20 minutes to a few hours each day working on his little garden plot.

Originally from Lake Charles, Louisiana, Doucette is no stranger to spending time in the sun. As a boy, he remembers plenty of days working with crops and farming.

Back then, Doucette, with his two older brothers, would help their father pick cotton and sweet potatoes on a farm that involved other farmers in a joint collaboration.

“He farmed the land and got part of the profits,” Doucette said.

After farming for a bit, his father took a job in the oil field and later made a career switch to fisherman, following an injury. As a result, Doucette got some experience on boats, experience that would float into his future and current backyard.

When Doucette was 19, he married his wife Glenda — they'll celebrate 50 years next year — and swapped his fisherman boots for a cowboy hat when he took a job in Texas City making 75 cents an hour. Four years later, the company Pabco Metals moved to Palestine, so Doucette brought his young wife and family to the area, where he has remained ever since.

Doucette retired from the company as plant manager in 2002, but — not one to twiddle his green thumbs — he started his own fencing and remodeling business, JR Fencing and Construction. He sold the company in 2012 and retired officially, one could say.

Fast-forward to today, and retirement apparently involves lots of creative projects, from gardening to fixing up old cars and boats. Right now, Doucette is working on building up a rusty vintage pickup truck, a boat and a 1975 Stingray Corvette.

“He's a jack of all trades,” his wife Glenda said — “and a master of none,” her husband interjects.

As for his recent achievement, Doucette said he hadn't paid too much attention to the ambitious watermelon until quite recently, “and I said, 'man, that's a pretty good sized watermelon.”

As for eating it...

“There's five or six kids in the neighborhood. I'm planning on having a little watermelon party for them,” he said, “and probably cook some wienies.”

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