Picking Up Pecans

Harvest reflections.

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ILLUSTRATIONS BY RUSSELL THORNTON

My husband and I (by the way, we just celebrated our 48th wedding anniversary) live on his deceased father’s farm here in Tecumseh, Oklahoma. There are a few pecan trees on the place.

Last year, I was gathering pecans under the only paper shell tree on the property (paper shell pecans are the kind that can be opened by hand). Baxter, my grandkids’ young pup, heard pecans crashing in my bucket and came out to see what the noise was all about. He picked a pecan out of my bucket and started chewing it. I thought, “Silly pup, he won’t like eating those at all.” Much to my surprise, he not only ate one pecan, he reached in the bucket, got another, and proceeded to eat it, as well. Then another!

I have learned—the hard way—that dogs, cattle, donkeys, and horses all like pecans, shells and all.

I scolded him: “Hey, get your own! Stay out of my bucket!”

Just then Emmy, the grandkids’ other, and older, dog, happened onto the scene. She went to the bucket and started enjoying a few nuts herself. Once I corrected her, she lay down under the tree and starting eating nuts off the ground. All she could reach without getting up, that is.

This year, both dogs knew the drill and came out again to watch me pick pecans. Baxter, older but no less persistent, came right up to the bucket to eat the pecans I had harvested. I scolded him about eating my pecans, but as usual, he wasn’t moved at all.

The next time I went back to the big pecan tree to harvest, the dogs didn’t notice me, so I thought, “Good. I won’t have to share this time.”

Not so. My son-in-law’s cattle were out under the tree. Arvin, my father-in-law, always ran Black Angus cattle on the farm, but my son-in-law got such a good deal on some mixed-breed cows that he couldn’t pass it up. If Arvin can look over the banister in heaven, I think he doesn’t mind the mixed breeds as long as there are cattle and farming going on on “his place.” I don’t think he minds at all.

One red yearling calf was very concerned about my bucket and how the pecans rattled noisily when I tossed them in. He was a little put off by the noise at first, but then became a little braver and moved a little closer. And then a little closer. It was a bucket, after all, and calves know that buckets mean something good to eat. Eventually, he got up the nerve to see what was really in there. To my surprise, he got some nuts out and began to chew them up. Then he stuck his head back in and started munching a few more. I scolded him and told him to get his own. But like the dog, he wanted those out of the bucket. It’s probably about the convenience, I guess.

So I put the whole bucket over the fence, grabbed another one, and begin to fill it up. Then I noticed that the red calf was leaning as hard as he could into the fence and still eating pecans out of my bucket! I have now learned—the hard way—that dogs, cattle, donkeys, and horses all like pecans, shells and all.

It’s not all that bad. The tree gives plenty of pecans. And the dogs run off the occasional cow and nap as often as they nibble. One day I decided to flail off some of the nuts that were still left on the limbs. But I couldn’t find the flail pole. (Did I mention I have grandsons?) So I took the longest stick I could find and started hitting the limbs. Pecans were falling and bouncing everywhere. Baxter woke up from his nap and had the most fun jumping and barking at the falling nuts. He even ate some right off the ground. Maybe he thought, “They are falling out of the sky, for crying out loud, so they must be free for anyone.”

It takes a lot of time to pick up pecans. The grandkids are not interested in helping. Last year I told my seven-year-old granddaughter that it was like picking up Easter eggs, only smaller. She started out with great expectations. She brought her toy rake and sand pail. But she couldn’t believe we needed to pick them all up. Now, for some reason, she doesn’t seem to ever want to go back to the trees.

So alone I go to pick pecans. I don’t really mind. I enjoy the quiet time and the cool air. It gives me a lot of time to think. I usually spend some time praying and some reflecting on life and the journey we have made along the way. I think about Arvin, my father-in law, and how much he loved this place. Arvin and Nina bought this property in 1952. But as much as he loved it and as hard as he worked on it, he didn’t get to take it with him when he went to heaven. It seems so crazy that lots of people owned it before Arvin and, if the world stands, more will own it after him.

Actually, Arvin didn’t plant the pecan trees himself. They were already here, planted by only the Lord knows who. Yesterday I was wondering if that man is in heaven and can see that his trees are still producing to this day. I am sure the day he planted them he had no idea how faithful and plentiful the trees would be, long after he was gone.

May they thrive for many others to enjoy after me, as well.


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