The Tale of the Pronghorned Cantaloupe
by Sabra Brown Steinsiek with illustrations by Noel Chilton
49 illustrations 48 pages
A Bilingual Children’s Story/Southwest Folklore
Mmmmm! Cantaloupe! Great for breakfast or a snack…at least they are now. But there was a time when wild pronghorned cantaloupe roamed the land and you had to get past sharp, ripping horns to get one if you wanted that sweet treat. Follow Andy and his boy as they grow up together in the time of the great cantaloupe roundups. You’ll never look at breakfast the same again.
The subject of this imaginative tale is the phantasmagoric pronghorned cantaloupe, a wild, if fanciful, beast once native to New Mexico. These now extinct cantaloupes had “sharp, double-pronged horns” in place of stems which they used to steer as they rolled across the plains in greenish pink herds. Apparently, in the old days, they were rounded up in the fall by brave cantaloupe punchers and special dogs. The story comes complete with villains. The cantaloupes were just plain mean. One day, a band of cantaloupes even attacked Andy, the family dachshund. In order to save his dog, Dad, the hero, scored a direct hit on the nearest cantaloupe. His sliced it in two with his knife. Pronghorned cantaloupes might be wild and dangerous in a herd, but they were mighty fine eating when they were caught. To find out what eventually became of these critters, you must read this delightful folk tale of the Moderately Old West. To add to its wonder and charm, The Tale of the Pronghorned Cantaloupe is fully bilingual – English-Spanish, translated by its illustrator, Noel Dora Chilton, whose forty-eight splendid illustrations enrich the text. Ages 5-Adult — Reading New Mexico
Anyone who’s seen the herds of curious pronghorns roaming New Mexico’s plains probably has a notion of what inspired Albuquerquean and longtime librarian Sabra Brown Steinsiek to write this fantastical tale about a herd of “cantaloupe.” These days, cantaloupe may just be simple fruits, but in this story set in days of yore, a more ornery and pronghorned variety roamed the land. The tale is delightfully imaginative: A boy and his fearless hunting dog try, with little success, to get past the cantaloupes’ wicked horns to a bit of their sweet fruit. Luckily, cantaloupe punchers and their “melon collies” bravely gather each year for a roundup, and all are finally rewarded with a juicy snack. This tales is best suited for children ages four to eight. — New Mexico Magazine
This is a tall tale set in New Mexico. It’s about the narrator’s father who was raised on a farm. The land was so rough that only snow and snakes could grow on it. But pronghorned cantaloupes could be found on the farm. The narrator explains that these are like the melons with sweet orange meat, but they also had horns. The melons rolled across the prairie in herds and were rounded up every fall. The cantaloupes, Steinsiek writes, “would use those horns to steer with, dipping down on one side or the other, depending on the direction they wanted to go.” This is how that part is translated into Spanish: “... rodaban en grupos por todas las llanuras. Ocupaban los cuernos para dirigirse, inclinandose de un lado y otro, dependiendo de a donde querían ir.” The story goes that drought wiped out the pronghorned cantaloupes years ago. Today you can find only the tamed, hornless melons on vines. In either language, this is a funny story to read aloud to kids. — Albuquerque Journal
The storyteller in this humorous children's book tells the reader about his dad being raised on a farm in New Mexico where nothing much grew except snow and snakes.
And there were these wild pronghorned cantaloupe.
Yep, the cantaloupes were just like the kind you buy in the supermarket today, except these had two horns sticking out on opposite sides.
One day when dad — still a young boy — was out hunting rabbits with his dog, Andy, they came upon a nest of the pronghorned melons.
“Those cantaloupes rolled around that dog and, just out of pure meanness, began to close in on him with those wicked horns sharp and ready to rip,” goes the story.
They sounded like the thumping you hear when you tap a cantaloupe in the store, but that day there were so many, they boomed liked thunder as they rolled around Andy.
The Spanish translation of that sentence in the book reads, “Ese día había tantos de ellos, que sonaban como truenos en el cielo al mismo tiempo que rodeaban a Andy.”
Dad came to the rescue with his skinning knife. He hit one melon and split it in two, scaring off the rest.
The story also tells of “bands of brave cantaloupe punchers” (just like cow punchers) who gathered every fall for the pronghorn roundup. Of course, a special breed of dog with heavy wiry coats did most of the dirty work to get the cantaloupes rolling to market. The story refers to the dogs as melon collies; not to be confused with the melancholy mood the rounded-up melons might have been in.
You can't find pronghorned cantaloupe any more because a long drought reduced their sharp points to nubs. That's why these days you only find these melons on the vine.
Add this book to the list of great American tall tales.
I can't resist telling this corny joke because it fits here:
Why are the honeydew and the watermelon getting married? Because they can't elope.
David Steinberg is the Journal's Books editor and an Arts writer. He's crazy for melons, preferably de-horned. — Albuquerque Journal
Sabra Brown Steinsiek is a life-long librarian turned author. She has written award-winning romance novels for adults and a book of haiku poetry. The Tale of the Pronghorned Cantaloupe is her first children’s book. She lives in Albuquerque with her husband and son, two cats, an insatiable curiosity, and an overactive imagination. Steinsiek is the founder of ReadingNewMexico.com, the only website devoted to reviewing New Mexico books.
Noel Chilton migrates with the butterflies between the American Southwest and Southern Mexico. She never flies without her two boys and her colored pencil set. Both bundles keep her busy and inspired. She illustrated Pop Flop’s Great Balloon Ride and several other bilingual books.
Book signings and events are listed as a master calendar. Check out the calendar by clicking the button below:
July 25, 2010
Museum of NM History, 2-3pm, 113 Lincoln Ave, Santa Fe, NM (in conjunction with Spanish Market)
June 27, 2010
Lavender in the Village Books in the Barn, 1-2pm, Los Ranchos, NM
May 24, 2010
Bookworks, 7pm, 4022 Rio Grande Blvd, NW, Albuquerque, NM with illustrator Noel Chilton
December 20, 2009
Treasure House Books, 1-3pm, 2012 S. Plaza St, NW (Old Town), Albuquerque, NM
December 19, 2009
Hastings at Rio Rancho, 3-5pm, 1630 Rio Rancho Dr, Rio Rancho, NM
December 13, 2009
Sunflower Market, 11am-1pm, 6300 San Mateo Blvd, NE, Albuquerque, NM
December 12, 2009
Eisenhower Middle School Craft Show, 9am-4pm, 1101 Camero Ave, Albuquerque, NM
December 6, 2009
Sunflower Market, 11am-1pm, 6300 San Mateo Blvd, NE, Albuquerque, NM
Albuquerque Garden Center Holiday Fair, 9am-4pm, 10120 Lomas Blvd. NE, Albuquerque, NM
November 27, 2009
Borders at Cottonwood, 2pm, 10420 Coors Bypass, Albuquerque, NM
November 22, 2009
Zia Arts & Crafts Fair, 10am to 5pm, EXPO NM, Albuquerque, NM
November 21, 2009
Marcy Street Cards, 2-4pm, 75 W Marcy St, Santa Fe, NM
November 7, 2009
Rio Rancho Book Fair, Inn at Rio Rancho 10-4pm, 1465 Rio Rancho Dr, Rio Rancho, NM