Picking pecans and stirring memories

Published 3:00 am Saturday, November 15, 2014

Some things in life, I’ve just naturally picked up.

But not pecans.

Deep down in my family gene pool is the desire to stoop over, pick up a nut and put it in a bucket with the idea of receiving some type of monetary compensation for the effort.

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Mama had the desire. Daddy didn’t.

So I reckon the desire came from my Scotch Irish ancestry, not from the dwellers by the cold well.

Either way, picking up pecans is one pleasure that I’ve missed out on.

Early in my childhood, picking up pecans was a tradition that usually started on Thanksgiving Day as a way to earn a little money to buy Christmas presents.

Mama had two ways.

In the spring, she bought a pig to raise to sale in the fall for her Christmas money. Pigs are cute but they grow up to be hogs and hogs are ugly and mean. Why, a hog will root you right up a tree. That’s where I would go when our ol’ hog would get after me.

Mama kept the slop bucket on the stove and we’d scrape our plates into it after every meal. Then, at night, it was my chore to slop the hog.

Sometimes the ol’ hog would just lie there in its waller and grunt. Other times, it would snort and growl and try to root me in the ground. That’s when I’d scurry up the chinaberry tree that grew right inside the hog pen.

I had a favorite place in that ol’ tree and I’d cozy down and watch the sun drop out of the sky in blazing colors. I’d stay until Mama called me to come in the house. I could see her silhouetted in the back door and I’d run to the warmth of home. So, slopping the hog was not a bad thing.

But, when Mama put on her “ol’ head rag,” as she called it, and tucked it in the back of her coat, I knew what was coming – picking up pecans.

Mama said pecans lying on the ground were just like money waiting to be picked up.

I didn’t see it that way.

There was nothing fun about picking up pecans so that was the one bad thing about Thanksgiving Day. We’d all get out there with buckets and stoop and crawl and near about freeze to death picking up what Mama called money.

Pecans won’t do you the favor of falling all at one time. Nope. They “divvy” down day after day, and drag out the drudgery of the chore.

Sometimes, Pop, my granddaddy, would bring hands from the feed mill to shake the trees. Most of them were young men that could climb the trees and jump on the limbs and make the pecans fall like a hailstorm. When the limbs were too high or too weak to climb, the young men would take stout bamboo poles and knock the pecans down.

We stayed out from under the trees when all the jumping and shaking was going on, but when they started knocking the pecans down with poles, we ventured back under the trees.

Those who doubt global warming, never picked up pecans during my childhood days. Why, it was so cold your fingers and toes would turn blue, your ear lobes and nose would turn to chunks of ice and your breath would freeze, crack and fall to the ground.

So, we didn’t waste any time getting back under the trees. The faster we picked up the pecans, the quicker we could get back in the house.

Now, when the young men were knocking down the pecans, often times the falling nuts would conk us right in the head. I’ve still got permanent scars from where I was pelted with pecans when I was a little girl.

I didn’t know until lately that it wasn’t by chance that those pecans knocked me in the head.

Haisten Harris confessed to me that he and the other young men took great pleasure in throwing pecans at us.

“We’d throw the pecans and try to hit y’all in the head,” he said, laughing.

I couldn’t believe that a little, skinny, knock-kneed, frizzy headed girl was a prime target for those young men but it really wouldn’t have mattered.

It was fall. It was Thanksgiving time. Christmas was coming and all was right with the world.