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story.lead_photo.caption Kenneth Pate sits underneath a white tent to sell watermelons along U.S. Highway 59 in Atlanta, Texas. The former Cass County commissioner for Precinct 1 says lots of friends and people he knows pass by. Photo by Neil Abeles / Texarkana Gazette.

Under a white tent along U.S. Highway 59 near Atlanta, Texas, a man is selling watermelons.

No matter the day is hot, Kenneth Pate will greet you with a smile. Among the thousands of cars that will pass on the busy roadway, some will know and wave to Pate. He was Cass County Precinct 1 commissioner for eight years, retiring in 2008.

Before that he was a 15-year employee of Bowie-Cass Electric Coop, and after that sold commercial fertilizer to farmers while raising watermelons on the side.

"I said I wouldn't be a farmer after growing up on one and working hard with my parents, Loyd and Modena Pate, but I did. I guess I needed the exercise," he likes to say with that smile.

There's more to the story. Pate says he still needs the exercise. At 80 years of age that's why he's out along the roadside three days a week.

"I can take the heat. Got used to it. What I can't do is raise 30 acres of watermelons like I once did. Now it's three acres and still need some strong helpers when it comes time to harvest."

Pate is tickled to have two grandsons helping. They are 10-year-0ld Kinsler and 6-year-old Judson. The lesson their grandfather is teaching them is how to work.

"Kids don't know how to work any more, but I can teach them and help them find out what it's all about."

Pate has another reason to be serious-minded along with that smile.

He and Linda Pate had two sons who were baseball players and good enough at Linden-Kildare High to win a small-college scholarship. Cory is a football coach at Jefferson today.

It was Marty, well-known and liked in Cass County, who lived to be just 25 when he was killed in 1993 while working on a tractor in a farming accident. He was a teacher, too, in Orange, Texas.

Pate's watermelons were particularly big and tasty this year.

He says it's because of all the rain.

Stop by. Let him exercise by loading one for you.

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