LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Frank Mudd, 73, admits he has a problem.
"It is an addiction. You can't hardly help it. It's worse than dope," he says with a laugh.
He loves growing giant watermelons. "That's what the challenge is. Can I help Mother Nature all I can to get this watermelon as big as I can," Frank said.
How bad is his obsession?
His wife of 53 years, Mary Jo Mudd, says a trip to Walmart turned sour. "Well while we were in there and a storm came up and oh my goodness. He was panicking, he was panicking, by the time we got home, because the greenhouse was wide open," she said.
"That's part of the obsession," Frank said.
He knows how to protect his beloved watermelons in Flaherty, Kentucky and make them grow, grow, grow. A lot of his success involves his greenhouse. "I shut it up. I'll shut the storms down. That's why I built the greenhouse, I can control the environment of the watermelon," Frank said.
It's more than a hobby for the retired golf course superintendent. "It's not that you're trying to compete with another grower. It's really that you're competing with Mother Nature. If Mother Nature decides to shut this watermelon down, there's nothing you can do," Frank said.
He's the guy everyone wants to beat. He's won the Kentucky State Fair 11 years in a row with his melons.
His biggest? 290 pounds. His wife always has a camera in hand for the weigh-ins that have taken him to several states.
"He's known far and wide. We go places in Louisville, Bardstown. People will stop him, 'how are you doing Frank'?" And he has no clue who they are, but they know him," Mary Jo said.
The reason for Frank's addiction? He blames his sweet wife. "It's her fault," Frank says with a laugh.
It all started 15 years ago and not with watermelons, but with pumpkins.
A brochure caught Mary Jo's eye. "Grow a big pumpkin and I thought, 'I bet Frank would like to do that,'' Mary Jo said.
"My wife ordered two pumpkin seeds (the) first year. I grew one that weighed 751 pounds. I kind of got addicted to that," Frank said.
He won the largest pumpkin contest at the fair seven times. "The biggest pumpkin I've raised weighed 1,146.6 pounds.
The pumpkins were becoming too much work. Four years ago, he decided to stick to just growing watermelons.
He uses a tractor and harness to transport them and loves people's reactions. People ask questions such as "How do they do it," "How do they get it here," "Can I cut it" and "Can I plug it."
Each year, he tries to grow them bigger and better by toying with compost, organic matter, watering and temperatures.
And he might be in denial about how much he loves it.
"There's people, worse than me, really, when it comes to this," Frank said.
He's started naming his watermelons. Friends follow updates on his Facebook page. "When it was about the size of your little finger, I put that on Facebook and I named it Delilah," Frank said.
And he does eat the giant melons at the end of the summer. "Yes, they're pretty good. You just can't eat them all at one setting," Frank says with a laugh.
But of course, there's another motive. "I save the seed. My real objective is the seed that's in it, because I'm hoping that seed will grow one even bigger," Franks explains.
After all of his accolades, there's one more thing he wants to do...beat the world record.
The record is currently held by a 350-pound watermelon, which was grown by a man in Tennessee who ironically got into this hobby because of Frank Mudd. "He's grown some awful big watermelons, a real good guy. I'm gonna try to beat him, if I can," Frank said.
"I think if he ever broke the world record, he'd probably really cut back. I'm not sure, but I think he would. Because he's getting older and it's a lot of work. It's a LOT of work," Mary Jo said.
Frank said it doesn't take an elaborate set-up like his to grow a super-size watermelon. He says you can find giant watermelon seeds on the internet pretty easily, and with just a little effort, you can grow about a 100-pounder.
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