October 23, 2016
By Lisa Batten Kunkleman
My twenty-year old son Sam walks barefoot in our backyard picking up walnuts with his long, thin, size thirteen toes. It’s a special talent I passed down to him with my own sizable hoof.
When the nuts fall off the black walnut tree, the nearly baseball sized hard green outer shell is a threat to an uncovered head. As the green shell dries to black and falls off the actual nut deep inside, the black shells become a nasty nuisance. It takes gloves and rakes to remove the staining shells then. It’s much smarter to remove them in the early hard stage instead of waiting till they dye your hands and shoes black.
A light bulb flickers in my head. I’m not Mark Twain and this is not really Tom Sawyer tricking folks into whitewashing his fence, but I can’t help thinking this seems like a good way to get the walnuts picked out of the yard.
I say to Sam, “Think you could hit that sweet gum tree with a walnut?”
“Which one?” he asks.
“That big one in that leafy natural area. The squirrels haul the nuts over there to chomp into the hard shells anyway. Never let a squirrel bite you. They must have teeth of steel.”
“Mama, I got bad aim,” Sam says after pitching the first nut to the right of the tree.
“Yeah and you also “got” bad grammar,” I tell my six-foot three baby boy who actually has impeccable grammar.
“Naw, my grammar’s all right.”
He throws one walnut after the other, hitting the tree and splattering the green outer shell about every third throw.
Next thing I know, here comes his daddy, saying, “Want me to show you how to hit that tree?”
This is working out even better than I expected. His father is not a bystander.
“There we go,” says Daddy Dan when he hits the tree. And I hear, “All right! Did you see that one, Sam? Did you see that nut explode when it hit the tree? Maybe that sweet gum tree will feel the pain and stop dropping spikey sweet gum balls.
“Hey! I want to play,” says our oldest daughter flouncing down the deck steps to join the competition. Perfect. Many hands make light work, as they say. And like Tom Sawyer’s friends, my family never even knows they’re working.