In the Larson family of South Dakota, you’ll find royalty. Charles Larson’s granduncle, Levo, was known as The Watermelon King for many years. Charles’ granddaughter, Shaynee Larson, is pictured on page 16.
Charles is a member of Basin Electric Class C member Central Electric Cooperative in Mitchell, South Dakota. “We’ve been selling melons here since the year I was born,” he says, which was not long after the family first got electricity on their farm as well.
Melons grow well in this area because of the river valley’s sandy soil. It’s hard work and a tough business, as teenaged hired help would today rather work in town for Wal-Mart wages. When the family gets together, they all pitch in to pick melons to sell at South Dakota melon stands. The stands’ busiest weeks are in late August and early September.
It’s similar to how Charles sees electric cooperatives work. “They [co-ops] band together and that’s what we’re looking for, to get electricity back on quickly. When we have had bad storms and lines come down, co-ops work together,” Charles says. “I think in that last bad storm, we even had trucks up here from Texas, Nebraska, everywhere. And I know not too long ago here, Central Electric sent a bunch of trucks to some other area that lost a bunch of poles.”
While melons are their claim to fame, the family boasts electric cooperative royalty, too. Charles’ second cousin, Chris Larson, is general manager at Clay-Union Electric Corporation in Vermillion, South Dakota.