I love the strong smell of black walnuts

It’s almost walnut season here in the Ozarks. As a kid I picked I don’t know how many thousands of black walnuts off the ground, dropping the finger-staining hulls into an onion sack, filling up one red sack after another.

When we had enough sacks worth the haul in the bed of a pickup we’d take them down to Bradshaw’s Grocery, a little general country store, now closed, just over the Oklahoma line, to be hulled and get paid. In a good year we’d get $10 per hundred pounds. On average it was $8.

When I was feeling lazy and got tired of bending over to pick up what seemed like an endless sea of walnuts, my mom would encourage me with “look at all that money lying on the ground! Are you just not going to pick it up?”

A lot of folks didn’t use sacks or buckets at all, but just tossed the walnuts directly into a truck bed until it was spilling over. They’d back up to the hulling machine and let the tailgate down and shovel them in.

I used to love watching the conveyor belt take the walnuts up and into the bowels of the yellow monster, where the hulls would be spit out one side into a giant pile and the fat, oval-shaped nuts would drop out into waiting sacks, which were then tossed onto a neat stack.

The hulls didn’t go to waste, either. They were sold and eventually made into shoe polish.

I loved the strong smell of black walnuts and still do. It reminds me of fall. Nowadays it also reminds me of my childhood.

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