I wish I shared Mama’s pecan joy
Mama liked to pick up pecans.
“I’m gonna to put on my ol’ head-rag and go out and pick up a few pecans,” she would say.
Mama would stoop and bend to pick up her pecans but, in later years, she got a pecan picker-upper that took some of the backbendin’ work out of picking up pecans. But nothing took her joy out of harvesting the fall nuts.
In my earliest memory, Mama cracked the pecans with a hammer. Later, she got a hand cracker. When Mr. Earl Stinson put a mechanical pecan cracker in at his barbershop, Mama started taking her pecans up town to get them cracked.
But, every now and then, Mama would sit down at the kitchen table with a bucket of pecans and the hand cracker, just for the joy it.
Mama sold most of the pecans she picked up for her Christmas money. She added her pecan money to what she got from selling the hog she had grown from a pig for Christmas money. The pecans Mama didn’t sell were used for making pecan pies, in her peanut butter fudge and other Christmas candies, to “dress up cakes” and for topping her sweet potato soufflé for the holidays.
Our grandmother had what she called a pecan orchard, but it was actually just three or four trees that were older than God’s dog, our granddaddy said.
Picking up pecans was a Thanksgiving tradition and that was how we, the grandchildren, earned money to buy Christmas gifts to give. We looked forward to having money so we could go Christmas shopping at the dime store where handkerchiefs, dusting powder, yoyos and jack stones were in our price range.
Usually, picking up pecans was like hunting crickets under a rock. It would take all afternoon to pick up enough to fill a syrup bucket.
But, around Thanksgiving our granddaddy had some of the young men that worked at the mill to come and “shake’ the pecan trees. They would climb high in the trees and knock the pecans down with long bamboo poles.
We would scramble to gather the pecans that were raining down.
Not long ago, Haisten Harris asked me if I remembered how those pecans would knock me on the head when they were shaking the trees. How could I forget? It hurt.
Haisten laughed and admitted that my head was among the targets for him and the other young tree shakers. I still have little pecan knots on my head.
Thanksgiving is a time for looking back and for remembering those we love who are no longer here. It’s a time to cherish the memories and give thanks for the blessings of today.
Mama’s old head-rag hangs by my kitchen door. When the pecans fall, I sometimes have the urge to tie her head-rag on my head and go out and pick up pecans. But, then, that was Mama’s joy. Not mine.
Happy Thanksgiving, 2020.