A few weeks ago the hubs and I started gathering black walnuts and while it would have been easier to sack them up and take them to the hulling spot, I have a tendency to still do things the "old" way. We gathered walnuts until our backs hurt and then.....dumped them in the driveway to be ran over and hulled! And yeah, my once pretty white gravel drive is not so pretty anymore (I'd forgotten the mess the hulls make!), but you can get a lot of thinking done while hulling them out of those ran over shells.
As I sat down on my board with my bucket beside me my mind just naturally went back in time to previous walnut gatherings. I can remember when I was a kid a walnut huller was brought up to the town square...right up on the courthouse lawn! A particular Saturday that came to mind there in the driveway was during the walnut season. It must of been a good year for them because I remember the square just being packed with folks dragging their buckets and bags of walnuts to wait in line for their turn at the huller. That year my parents also took their walnuts to town and while they waited their turn they visited with everyone else up there. My dad was a trader by nature, so he was always "working the scene" to see what was available that he could trade for...whether it be work or livestock. And of course, all this took place on a Saturday morning!
Yes, I'm old enough to remember a time when going to town on Saturdays was a big deal. It's when you done the weekly shopping, trading, or just visiting on the streets. You didn't jump in the car and run to town just because you needed something, you planned out those weekly (and more often in my family, monthly!) trips to cover all you needed...which usually meant the grocery store, the mercantile, and the feed store.
I enjoyed the trips because that's when I got to see and play with other kids and we'd run all around the square and the upper streets close to it. If you were lucky you'd get a quarter to take across the street to the Ben Franklin store where you could buy penny and nickel candy....ohhhhh heaven!!! They had rows and rows of all kinds and flavors and it became a tough decision as to which one you would pick for that week. For me, usually it was the Milk Duds or Sugar Daddy suckers that always won out! I never really understood though, why they carried so much candy because the proprietress at the time never seemed enthused to see us kids walk through the door! I mean, they had to of known where there was candy there would be children! ;) We were watched like hawks until we had made our choice and placed our grubby little coins on the counter, grabbed our bags, and were back out the door to run some more. Back then you needed all that sugar to keep up with the pack!
I always made sure before I left town to head down one of the side streets just off the square. That's where I'd find my Grandpa Ellis setting in the sun with a couple of other elderly gentlemen. He always had his pipe lit and he was always whittling on a stick! I don't know that anything ever became of those sticks, it was just something he did to pass the time. If I was lucky, Grandpa would give me nickel, and sometimes a dime, which I always saved for my next trip to town. You never asked though, that would have been rude and impolite and Mom always insisted that I attempt to turn down the offer, but Grandpa also insisted I take it. Sometimes he'd have a bag of those big orange peanut looking candies and I'd be given one of those rather than a coin. I never told Grandpa, but I hated those things! LOL! Again, Mom always insisted you take whatever you were given, do it politely and thankfully whether you liked it or not...she never insisted I had to eat it though! Every now and then he'd swap out those nasty peanuts for lemon drops or horehound candy. I didn't much care for the horehound either, but I sure loved those lemon drops!
You won't find any benches around the square these days..it's all fancy street lights and sign posts. You sure won't find people milling around the courthouse on a Saturday morning either, unless of course it's Apple Festival weekend and then you can't hardly get to the square period. With Walmart open 24 hours a day you can run to town whenever you want to get whatever you want. You have to go out of town to get your walnuts hulled and most folks just buy them prepackaged now rather than doing their own.
I think that's why I try to cling to some of the old ways, because like everyone else I find I'm just always "busy" doing something with very little time to really enjoy things anymore. There's one thing about hulling your own walnuts...sitting in the driveway pulling off those hulls just naturally slows you down a tad. It's an ongoing process, from the picking up, to the hulling, to the stirring them as they air dry, to the final packing them away for winter. You're not going to rush the process or you'll lose the nutmeats you've worked so hard to acquire. I went modern one year and took my walnuts to a huller, however, I didn't air dry them long enough and lost almost the whole batch. I don't recall my folks taking ours to the huller other than that one time either...my dad didn't much care for those "new fangled inventions", but I would imagine it was really because they lost their crop from lack of drying too!
There is much to be said about all of our latest technology, although I've yet to understand why it is with more conveniences that free up our time we seem to have less and less of that time. For as long as I'm able I'll still be doing walnuts the "old fashioned" way....and I'll be thankful for the time and place I was raised in... where things ran a little slower and progress was measured by the arrival of a walnut huller!