Ms. Muscadine

I bought a muscadine plant.

It was happenstance. I shopped for groceries last night at Publix and after I loaded them in my Outback, I returned the cart to the inside of the store, even though it was raining and I got wet, because that’s just the way I am. That’s when I saw them — about ten tall plants in black plastic pots sitting against a column in front of the store, raindrops running off their leaves. There were clusters of gold balls on the vine. I thought, No way, it can’t be, not muscadines, here, for sale. I stopped and reached down for the tag. “Muscadine Grape.” I went back inside and paid customer service $14.19, loaded up my selected potted vine and headed home.

So now, the Muscadine Lady has her own vine. Today, I must figure out where to plant it. Maybe tomorrow, I will pop one of those little gold balls in my mouth and savor it.

I first learned of muscadines and scuppernongs on my grandparents’ farm. There were two organized vines, though others trailed through treetops in the woods. One was on the side of the dirt road halfway between Papaw’s and Uncle Rufus’ house, near my great uncle’s barn, growing up a tall post and winding up a tree on a little island of scrub trees and brush between the road and a turn-off lane that led to the barn. I often took my bike to the farm when I visited in late summer and rode to the vine and ate the grapes handpicked and warm. Or I rode the old mare bareback and picked the higher-up fruit. The August sun beat down, my legs rested against Dixie’s warm wet back, and I smelled horse sweat, as I gobbled down the sweet grape.

The other vine was beyond Papaw’s barn, next to the gate that opened to the upper pasture and the pig pen and beyond that, the woods. My cousins and I would pick a handful as we ran down the cow path on our way to wade in the stream or play in the gully.

Those luscious days are long gone, and now, my muscadines are stories in an online journal: Muscadine Lines: A Southern Journal. I like the rhyme — muscadine and line. “Dine” is pronounced with a long “i.” Some people don’t know that, and say “deen.” I like the clusters of short fiction and creative nonfiction.

Muscadines…reminiscent of those summer days as a girl, a sixth generation Mississippian, on land acquired by my great-great grandfather in 1850, in the red clay hills of Kemper County.

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