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Robert Hitt Neill Column

Liniment needed during this time of harvesting pecans for various holiday foods

This is the time of year when I use more liniment than any other season. Of course, in late spring, summer, and early fall, the Swimming Hole is in use, so I stay loosened up and exercised. Then comes fall, with its hunting seasons, when in the pursuit of game many men walk farther, climb higher, crawl lower, and in general do things they would not attempt to do at home, as so many instructions say (assuming there is a man somewhere who reads the instructions!).

Yet it is also the harvest season, so many of us, especially country folk, are doing a whole lot more stooping and bending and kneeling than at any other time of year, and I ain’t talking about prayer, either, although I regularly do that and have appreciated collective prayer this past three months more than ever, after Betsy’s heart attack and three Kairos weekends in three months.

I’m speaking of fruits and nuts, the which you probably are thinking the human kind and saying “Amen!”  But no, I’m talking about the kind that grow on trees and fall to the ground when they ripen.  We have several pecan trees in the yard and pasture, so we have been gathering nuts, even though I’m regularly called one myownself.

One of my choir Back Row Boys made that comparison recently, matter of fact, but I think he meant it in a good way.  The boy is obviously used to Choir Directors who stand still whilst conducting, and I ain’t made thataway.

At any rate, the pecan (“puh-cahn” – I wouldn’t expect to eat anything called a “pee-can”) crop has been really good this year, and after Betsy and I had picked up a couple hundred pounds of the nuts, she announced, “I’m not picking up another pecan! If anyone wants the rest, they can come pick them up themselves.”  

Yet yesterday she had our grandson Sir outside in the 80-degree sunshine, teaching him to pick up the nuts. Of course, he’s starting out a lot closer to the ground at one year old. But what Betsy didn’t realize was that last month I had taught him to pick up pecans, then later showed him how to throw rocks in the gravel driveway.  

He somehow got the two connected, so he was picking the nuts up, throwing them at the bucket, then dumping the bucket and throwing the pecans across the driveway for her. Boy learns well!

We’ve been picking out pecans every night as we watch a good DVD movie (praise the Lord for the TV writers strike!) so she can make the mixture we call “Trash” as well as Karo pecan pies and other concoctions that depend on pecans.

Yet once she got to going good, she decided to make jelly as well. This summer and fall we had the best plum crop we’ve ever had, and also picked up enough muscadines that she turned out about 40 pints of plum jelly and 20 pints of muscadine jelly to go into the pantry with the fig jam, which she divides into fig jam, strawberry fig jam, and orange marmalade fig jam.

For the latter, she saves the peels of the big oranges we get for Christmas, runs them through the blender, then mixes the chopped peel with orange Jello and fig jam.  She did all that during the Thanksgiving holidays, so we’ve eaten breakfast for supper a lot since then!

I reckon I’m pointing out the fact that we pick up a lot of our food out here at Brownspur – matter of fact, the biological father of The Virgin Killer, who ate most of her meals at my table throughout her high school and college years, has often accused me of picking up fresh road kill to feed the girl on.  I will not deny that has happened before, but the key word here is “fresh.”

My favorite tree to hunt under for deer or turkey in the hills is a huge hickory tree on Cuddin Jack’s Place, and I’ve picked up nuts under it many a morning.  Woodstock Island was thick with paw-paw thickets, and I’ve picked up many a paw-paw to put in a basket, just like Susie in the song.  I’ve picked up bags of ripe persimmons to make persimmon bread with, but most often to freeze and use a month later in close proximity to a deer stand.  Dewberries, blackberries, mulberries, scuppernongs, possum grapes: a lot of good eating falls to the ground!

Stooping to pick up the fruit and nuts is what gets to a lot of us older people with bad knees and backs – but fortunately, Betsy also mixes up a great liniment!