Larry M. Jones
Years ago I recall an old farmer offering advice to youngsters like me. He said to never go to town unless you took something with you to sell. He reckoned that going only to spend money was a sure fire path to financial ruin.
We weren’t quite that conservative down on the pore farm, but not that far from it. Back in the ’40s and ’50s, we didn’t get government checks deposited into our bank accounts or sent to our mailbox each month. We had to work for every dime we had. We could hire out to work off the farm during slack seasons, but most of our income was what we raised and sold. Peanuts, cotton, and livestock provided the bulk of our livelihood, but we could supplement this by other means. We always raised watermelons and cantaloupes to sell to local vendors. In addition, we had fruit from our orchard, and my mother would sell surplus eggs when our hens were laying during peak times of the year. In the fall we were fortunate to have large numbers of pecan trees we could harvest. In most years this provided a stable source of supplemental income.
This time of year always brings back memories of picking up pecans in our fields and river bottoms. The entire family pitched in, and often my mother would make lunch to take with us so we could keep working. Sometimes our relatives, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, would drive down and help. We even gave names to some of our larger and more productive trees. One we called the Pap tree, after my Grandfather Thomas whom we grandchildren called “Pap.” Another was called the Lewis tree after my uncle, Lewis Chipman. He earned this naming right by climbing it and flailing the branches with a bamboo pole to knock the hanging nuts from the tree. This tree was an exceptionally tall tree with great distances between large branches, a very dangerous chore requiring great agility and absolutely no fear of death.
The smell of the frost-killed pecan leaves, smoke from burning leaves and sticks, and the pungent smell of bursting green pecan husks opening to release their ripe nuts is a vivid memory. The sounds of squirrels chattering nearby, crows cawing, and jaybirds shrieking in the pecan bottoms are also crystal-clear in my mind to this day. Memories from a time long ago...
For whatever the reason, pecan production in recent years has been erratic at best. In the past five years, I doubt that I have had enough pecans to make a pie if you deduct losses from marauding varmints. This year is an exception. Almost every tree on the farm is loaded with plump pecans. Prices for the past few years have soared due to greatly increased foreign demand, particularly China. With a bumper crop this year, along with wholesale prices at over $2 per pound, it might be time to dig out my old bamboo flail pole and gather a few water buckets of the fresh nuts. On second thought, I think I’ll just take my grandkids down to the bottoms and show them what to do. Let them take something to town to sell.
Larry M. Jones is a retired Navy Commander and aviator who raises cattle and hay in the Brock/Lazy Bend part of Parker County. Comments may be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org.