(July 8) I’m sitting here in my cubicle a few days ago, drinking coffee like it’s going out of style, when my editor sends me a call from some lady at a financial news service.

She wants to know what’s going on with watermelon supplies. She hears there’s a real shortage in Florida with the July Fourth holiday right around the corner.

Truth be told, my head wasn’t even there. I was busy writing a story about the drought in Colorado. Plus, I was dealing with the shock of hearing John Entwistle, bassist for The Who, had died at 57 in a Las Vegas hotel room, apparently of a heart attack. Bummer.

Not to mention, I hadn’t talked to a watermelon shipper in weeks. Still, I figure it’d be only courteous to help out a fellow reporter.

In the summertime, I tell her, Florida isn’t the only state shipping watermelons. Plenty of states have their own regional deals.

And while I’m talking, I go ahead and e-mail her a copy of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s latest market trends, which shows supplies from Georgia, South Carolina, Texas and California, among other states.

Florida likely was nearing the end of its production, I say. Holiday sales probably were arranged weeks in advance anyway. I suggest a few shippers for her to call and provide the phone numbers.

She’s typing most everything I’m saying, which is a normal thing for reporters to be doing. But should reporters rely so much on what other reporters have to say? Isn’t that cultural inbreeding?

Plus, I cover a variety of crops. I tell her she’d be better off interviewing someone with a more vested interest in the watermelon deal — you know, like someone who sells watermelon for a living? And then I hear her voice, which sounds whiny and bored at the same time:

“Isn’t there a reporter there who specializes in watermelons?”

I look into my coffee. It’s the same color and viscosity as the oil in my car. It’s time for a change.

SHORT SUPPLIES

Ends up that watermelon supplies have been a bit short. In early July, Chris Bloebaum, salesman for Dal-Don Produce Inc., Clermont, Fla., said the majority of watermelon acreage had been harvested in Georgia and South Carolina.

Cool weather in April has slowed the growth of watermelons in North Carolina, where heavy volumes won’t come off until July 15. Texas and Indiana won’t begin harvest until July 20, which could leave Missouri in the driver’s seat for a while, Bloebaum said.

But f.o.b.s so far hadn’t been that much higher in light of the shorter supplies, he said. The shippers ran out when they needed to, before the July Fourth holiday.

HIGHER MARKETS

Some Western markets were high in early July, like red seedless, which was selling at about 14 cents per pound for melons weighing 16 pounds to 18 pounds in western Arizona and the California desert deal, according to the USDA. The same time last year, prices were more in the 9-cent to 10-cent range.

The San Joaquin Valley also saw prices higher than the same time last year. Brent Harrison, salesman for Al Harrison Co. Distributors, Nogales, Ariz., said that at least in Arizona, poor markets had led growers to cut acreage.

Demand from Western states has been strong this summer, but Eastern shippers can’t compete with the freight advantage, he said.

I didn’t get a chance to tell all this to my fellow reporter. She’d called back just a few minutes after our first conversation.

“Listen, John,” she said, “one more thing …”

Actually, John Lister, he’s my uncle. He retired from the refinery a few years back.

I sure could use another cup of coffee.