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The time we all went nuts

Being raised on the family farm on Fruit Ridge holds so many thoughts, memories and things that I can recall so well. I enjoyed being around my family as we farmed and learning all about my neighbors and all that I got to experience with them.

Most of my memories revolve around all the friends I grew up with. Boys my age were few and far between and I guess that is a big reason why I remember so well the times I spent with them. My cousin Walt lived in Cincinnati but in the summer he would come up to their farm that was next to our farm along with his family. So I spent many, many summer days being with and enjoying the company of my cousin. Not until the fourth grade did I get a pair of playmates year round. That was the extent of boys my age. Needless to say we went to school together, played together, and worked together. It was hard to see me without Cousin Walt or the Marshall Brothers, Herb and Charlie.

At the time we were growing up parents didn’t give us any allowance money. We were given opportunities to work for extra money. That was always their answer. Here is a chance to make a little money. My memory seems to remind me the emphasis was on the little part of the money. We did the jobs but we also were always looking for ways to go into business and make money a little easier and hopefully more of it. We tried many different ventures but most just never produced the profits we expected.

During the fall of our seventh grade year we collectively decided the following. My dad worked on several farms raising tobacco or corn on the shares. We would work on many farms and it seemed that each farm consisted of many walnut trees and hickory trees. My buddies and I decided that we would go into the nut business.

We would gather the walnuts by the bag and bring them home to our driveway and dump them so we could drive over the walnuts and crush the hulls off the hard nut. We also found an abundant supply of hickory nuts and bagged them and brought them to our drive to get the outer hull off of them also. That year the trees were abundant with nuts and we gathered over 1200 pounds of walnuts and more than 300 pounds of hickory nuts. So far everything was going as planned and running on schedule. The nuts were free and driving over them was fun as we were allowed to drive the pickup back and forth over the nuts. We began to calculate just how many pounds we would have to sell and just how much a pound. We even thought of just how we would package them once the meat was pickeed from the shell.

This was when we all must have thought about the process of picking up and storing the nuts so they would dry and the cracking and picking the meat out of each and every nut. We hadn’t thought of how labor intensive this task really was. So Herb began working for other farmers as did Charlie and I, but I still lived where the all those nuts were lying in the driveway.

After they had been run over more than enough my mom decided it was time to finish hulling them and time to load them into boxes, buckets and cans and place them under the stripping bench in the stripping room so that they could be in a warm dry place where the nuts could cure. To see that many nuts stored away showcased just how many nuts we had collected. We also were trying to abandon them.

When all the tobacco was stripped my Mom began digging out all those boxes. Now my mom was a child of the Depression era and she didn’t believe in waste (even if it was ours). She had a small tack hammer and she would take a box at a time and on a concrete wall she cracked nuts and reloaded them into the box. At night when we were all in front of the television set Mom spread out newspapers and with a nut pick she would spend the evening picking and placing them in quart jars. Sometimes I was handed a nut pick but I was never very productive with one. This went on all winter until she had filled a shelf in the refrigerator with quart jars of nuts. That was the winter mom baked. She baked walnut cake, walnut bread, fudge, hickory cake, bread and fudge. The cakes all had caramel icing. All the items were delicious and whether at an event or at the PTA, church, lodge, or just for home or neighbors, Mom baked.

Once all the nuts had been shelled, Herb, Charlie and I were safe back in the house and if nothing else we were assured we would have some walnut or hickory cake. It seems like Mom sent pastry home with any company we had and by spring everyone in our house looked as though they had gained some weight. Mom did not believe in waste and by late spring or early summer she had used all the nuts we had gathered. Our plans faltered early in the process and once we abandoned it Mom’s plans never faltered. Whenever my buddies and I planned anything after that we thought it out a lot more and we never ever let our plans near Mom.

Rick Houser grew up on a farm near Moscow in Clermont County and likes to share stories about his youth and other topics, He may be reached at houser734@yahoo.com.

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Rick Houser

The Good Old Days

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