One month after the Tiananmen Square Massacre, I arrived in China as an advisor for the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization. I was a watermelon breeder for Clemson University, and I was assigned to evaluate the Melon Research Institute at Gansu Agricultural University in Lanzhou, Gansu. If I considered their melon breeding program effective, FAO would provide a large grant to the University to expand their program. This single trip introduced me to the Yellow River Honey Dew, to the professor who developed it, and to two outstanding young Chinese who are still part of my life after a quarter century. It gave me a way to return to China to continue cooperative watermelon breeding research. Finally, it gave me an insight into the soul of China itself.
Bill Rhodes received his PhD in plant genetics from Kansas State University and began work as a watermelon breeder for Clemson University in 1976. He retired from Clemson University in 2002 and returned to his home state of Arkansas in 2006. He is the author of more than 50 research publications and five books and will publish his first novel in July, 2015. He has traveled widely in North America, the Caribbean, Europe, Egypt, China, and the Philippines. He affirms biological authorship of two sons and non-biological affiliation with one daughter. He is a Unitarian Universalist and a Democrat.