For a taste sensation, use Missouri’s black walnuts

The weather turned dry, and rains didn’t come at the right time. We had no way to water those young trees; we lost almost all the started trees and finally turned the cattle in on that ground. We also had planted 100 seed walnuts in the vegetable garden. Nothing thrived there - in spite of our watering from the garden hydrant. We were convinced that we weren’t supposed to raise black walnut trees after all!

Chub plowed the garden and enlarged our asparagus bed in that spot. He was great at raising great asparagus, so we set out roots and did not use much asparagus until it got a good start. Unannounced, 13 black walnut sprouts shot up in the asparagus bed! During the summer, various cultivating mishaps took 12 of those walnuts, leaving one shoot growing quite well!

We decided to protect that lone knee-high walnut tree by moving it away from the garden. J.D. Russell put in a row of shrubs to help hide the wood-burning kiln I used for my pottery enterprise. That walnut tree was a willing companion of the shrubs. It soon was growing like a weed, and we were protecting it from the heat and fumes of the salt-glazed, "antique-like" pottery we were making. Our friend and helper J.D. built a lattice screen, leaving the walnut tree growing like a weed in the area that was considered our "front yard."

The walnut tree was an important part of the front lawn. It made great shade for people helping with the pottery firing and for picnicking day and night as various potters and neighbors came to help with the firing of the wood-burning kiln. That took a minimum of 13 consecutive hours of hard work. Many people said, "I didn’t know you had this shade tree out here." The first year for it to bear fruit, there were 13 big, beautiful green nuts on our tree; they were ready to drop, but we couldn’t reach them.

We picked up 13 of the tastiest Missouri black walnuts, and after that, there were usually more than we tried to count.

One day, one of the kids will see a snapshot and discover a metal marker - rustproof - marked this way: "Sam, Cole, Peter, Oliver, Jennie, Tim, Chris," and someone will say: "Oh, yeah! The day we built a bridge across that creek and we marked our names and drove the markers into the ground."

They’ll race to see whether the bridge survived; it didn’t. It washed away, but the memories are there. The metal stakes are driven almost out of sight, and the boys are men.

Sam is the father of Fionn and Neuv; Jennie is the mother of Isabel. All will recall the day they built a bridge together and chose a straight, tall black walnut tree - at Whip-Poor-Will farm, about 10 miles east of Columbia on a tributary of Big Cedar Creek.

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