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That’s Nuts!

The freezing nights were followed by the sudden drop of the walnut leaves, not singles, but frons laid out as if they had ended the poker party when dawn arrived and left all their cards on the table. Neath them lay the nuts, now hiding and tempting an ankle to find them first.

There is nothing better to do in the winter nights than to be warmed by the fire of cast-off walnut tree limbs cut so as to heat the room comfortably for picking the meats out of the nuts. When doing this, I nibble the large segments as the prize they are and remember my dad doing the same and sharing these with Little Doggie, a Scottish Highland terrier who came to him from Hop Hannah who had nursed the injured dog back to good health. I am nuts about walnuts, but as they say it had to become an “acquired” taste. While sitting around that fire in the winter with a big bowl of walnut meats just picked after hours of tedious work, I do find myself not offering to share, afraid the visitor may then “acquire” the taste and want more from my pickings!

Before the leaves came off the trees, as a walnut fell it would pass through the surrounding leaves and announce itself. Having been pounded by one of the remaining walnuts, which fall with much greater speed and force when there are no leaves left to slow them, I have learned to limit time beneath and to never park a car there either.

The Oklahoma Forestry Department had a deal 40-plus years ago for assorted saplings. I bought a bundle of black walnuts and planted half in the gully and half near my home. These trees are now producing my crops. What a bargain! And if for some reason I should tire of their shade, beauty or bounty, they can be harvested themselves for the fine wood they would provide. Straight tall trees I have learned were great investments all those years ago.

I can look around most rooms in my house and find furniture made from walnut. But the prizes are the ones made by my Uncle David, my mother’s only brother. He and my grandfather harvested wood from their homestead in the Missouri Ozarks near the Niangua River. Uncle David had the walnut cut and allowed it to sit for a number of years before he used it for furniture. I am sitting at a desk he made and have dinner each evening on a table we had shared meals when it was still in his own home. Much of the other furniture in each room are handed down walnut antiques.

One of my dad’s brothers, my Uncle Charles got their mother’s Cherokee allotment on the other side of Vinita. The place had a spring and was treed with walnuts which he harvested to panel a room in his home and for projects he made in the wood-working class at NEO. As it turned out, a year after finishing my house, I took that woodworking class with him a semester and got to meet a whole team of wood-workers.

Uncle Charles had some left-over walnut wood he gave it to us. My dad called it “just right wood” for if it had been any better, he would have used it himself and any worse he would have burned it for heat! I used his wood to trim out my bathroom. After seeing how beautiful it was, I searched for more seasoned walnut to trim out a bedroom. A little old sawmill down by Colcord, OK had walnut boards that had been seasoned seven years for sale. I didn’t know how much it would be but we loaded up enough 10-foot boards to do the room and he charged me a total of … SEVEN DOLLARS! (Which probably should have been SEVEN dollars PER BOARD FOOT).

I drove home with one-inch quality boards and after studying the walnut calculator, which I never knew existed until this morning! I aim to get back into that old Chevy truck and settle up with that sawmill owner. Whoever sold me that wood that day for that amount probably got a chewing out for sure!

The other value of walnut trees. They store carbon which will help us in our efforts to stop climate change. As the long-lived trees grow, they store carbon and when they are cut and used in furniture or housing the carbon remains stored in your living room in that table. Who would have thought that Tree-huggers really did have the right idea?

Respectfully Submitted ~ Rebecca Jim

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