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One Foot in Hollywood, the Other in a Watermelon Patch, Rush Springs Girl Comes Home for the Harvest

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RUSH SPRINGS, OKLAHOMA -- Ashton Pittman might be the best there is at what she does.

"Something like that," she giggles. "I've been doing it long enough."

She is chief cutter in her dad's watermelon patch west of Rush Springs.

Ashton and her little sister grew up on this combination cattle and fruit operation.

Her earliest memories picking watermelons, she figures, "I remember it was before cell phones were a big deal."

If there is a ripe melon on her row she can tell by sight or sound.

Pittman lines up two watermelons side by side.

One is obviously bigger, but also has wider, green stripes, a hidden sign of ripeness.

"I don't even have to thump this one," she says. "I know it's going to be ripe."

It's been a tough year for the famous Rush Springs melons.

Ashton's father Brent was knee-deep in water on this very spot in late spring.

"Parts of this field were under water for two weeks," he says. "That's the part we lost."

The melons he has left are all the sweeter for the work he put in to save them.

Cutting the tender heart from a split melon, Brent says, "You never tasted a good watermelon until you tasted a Rush Springs watermelon."

"That's a red seedless," he says between juicy mouthfuls.

It was a tough year, which might be why he appreciates his expert help.

Brent says of Ashton, "Not just anybody can cut a good, ripe watermelon."

"Yeah," she yells from a few rows over.

Ashton spent most of the past year in Los Angeles, California trying to land an acting part in the movies.

Tor her friends on the West Coast, this melon patch might as well be on Mars.

She says, "They think it's hilarious that I work in a watermelon field. It just blows their mind. They've never really thought about watermelon being anywhere else but the grocery store."

Brent and Ashton saved a lot of the watermelons that survived the floods for the 71st annual Watermelon Festival.

After 35 summer growing seasons they both insist there's still something special about the fruit that comes from around here.

They're better, they say, thanks to sandy soil, good summer heat, and one of the best cutters around still here for the harvest.

Brent Pittman figures he lost close to 90% of his watermelon crop this season which hurt his fruit stand clients outside the Rush Springs area.

Most of the Pittman crop this year sold at the Watermelon Festival August 8th