Through the back yard, after the timothy hay field, behind the first pasture, in the middle of the oat field, sat a big Hickory Nut tree. That’s where I went with my sisters to gather nuts when I was a little girl. We had to have nuts for cookies and sweet bread. Even though I could see the tree from the house, it seemed like a long ways away.
I liked to pretend we were out in the old west, going through the Prairie, except no wagon train and no horses. Once we took Loren in the Radio Flyer wagon: I was Flint McCullough and Bonita was Cookie from Wagon Train; Bonita loved Cookie, ’cause he was a cranky guy who ended up doing nice things; Flint was the boss, I liked that. The timothy wound all around the wagon wheels, and stopped the wagon dead, and we couldn’t make it budge one way of the other, even with Loren out of the wagon. Loren started to cry because he didn’t want to walk all the way out to the Hickory Nut tree and I didn’t want to walk him all the way back to the house. He just plopped himself right down there and started to beat the ground with his feet and fists and holler and scream. He was the best fit-throwers I ever saw in my whole entire life, and pretty intent, too, ’cause that timothy was super scratchy and stiff like millions of little sticks, not like clover that is soft as velveteen, like my special Christmas dress, and when the clover flowers are out, I could pull the petals out slow and suck the nectar our, just like the bees do. I wanted to leave Loren behind and I started to, ’cause believe me it would serve him right; he was always throwing fits. For sure that would be trouble, so me and Bonita each took one of his hands, and started to walk him back to the house.
That Loren-Deedy-Bopper was a tough one, he wanted me to carry him, so he just picked up his feet and curled into a little ball just dangling there between Bonita and me, pulling down hard on my arm, so I though it might come right out of the socket. Me and Bonita got a sick of our little brother pushing us around. That kinda stuff never happened on Wagon Train; if somebody went off on their own in a sulk, he was sure to run into a rattle snake or a mountain lion, and get some sense knocked into him. Loren would never make it in the wild west. We took a couple of steps and dropped him, right there in the timothy field and walked away. Loren disappeared down there in the hay field, but I could still hear him. Bonita and I just kept walking away, like outa sight, outa mind, so pretty soon, he popped up and came running after us, and walked like a good boy the rest of the way to the house. Of course, he tatttled when we got there. We were on the way to get nuts, so by the time we got back, Mom would probably forget all about it; she took Loren by the hand and walked into the house, without even looking at me with her lips all pressed together tight, like she did when she was mad. I got a feeling Mom thought Loren got what was coming to him, just by the way she looked at him. She would never say that out loud.
We forged a path through the pasture with a big stick, beating down the Queen Anne’s Lace, and wild mustard and milk weed. I never liked to brush up against those milk weed, ’cause for some reason, the spit bugs loved those things so there were always big wads of spit in the joint between the stem and the flower pod. For sure, I’d get all slimy with spit bug juice if I didn’t beat those things back. That stuff was sticky-yicky to get on my arms. Besides, it was fun beating stuff back and stomping on it.
Through the oats, we had to be careful, so as not to tramp down any oats, just straight to the Hickory Nut tree, single file, no shenanigans. Sometimes I scared up a field mouse, and forgot all about those rules, trying to catch the cute little guy. I never did catch one. Lots of times pheasants flew up right in my face, ’cause most of the time I was first in line; Bonita was a little bit of a scaredy-cat, and didn’t like to be caught by surprise. Those pheasants seemed like they waited ’til they were about to be stepped on, then two or three made a mad dash for the sky, just like in the movie Bambi.
After we got to the tree and filled up our bucket with nuts, we headed straight back to the house, ’cause it was about lunch time by then, and we were ready for a peanut butter and jelly swirl flat top; Dad taught me how to make those: put a glob of jelly right on top of a glob of peanut butter and swirl it all around, eat it up, no top. Add a class of milk with Nestles Quik and I had the best lunch ever. I hoped the bread was still frozen ’cause then I got toast.
Along with an occassional mishaps, life is full of adventure, if we just open our hearts an minds and let the fun in. I’m sure there’s still plenty of wonder ready to fly up and greet me with a big surprise. I’m willing to beat back the tall grass and tolerate a few spit bugs, because there’s sure to be some sweet clover up ahead. Beside, there’s enough nuts in my life to keep me company and hold my hand along the way.