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Granny’s Christmas Gifts

searchMy Grands would never ask me “Will tobacco sell high this year?” but that’s a question I asked my granny when I was a young girl and sat beside her on her couch. In her lap, Granny held a cardboard gift box lid filled with cracked black walnuts, and she held a metal nut picker in her hand.

After Thanksgiving, Granny spent most days fretting about the price of tobacco and picking black walnuts out of their shells. She’d say, “I don’t know how much I can give you for Christmas. It depends on what my tabaccy sells for. At least the walnuts are good this year.” The tobacco had been grown on the family farm and although Granny never came close to it – not to plant or sucker or hoe or cut or stalk or strip or haul it – it was her tobacco because it grew on her parents’ farmland where she grew up.

While Granny, my paternal grandmother, fretted about tobacco prices, her hands stayed busy. She kept a list of people to give a pound of black walnuts and she touched every nut – several times. Two walnut trees stood close to the tobacco field. In October when the nuts, enclosed in green and yellow thick hard hulls, began to fall, Granny picked them up –filling many five-gallon buckets. Not a single nut was left on the ground. She and I searched for nuts that rolled far from the trees or hid under leaves.

Granny was impatient waiting for those green hard hulls to soften and turn black. She laid some nuts on her wooden back porch and used a hammer and chisel to remove the hulls, but most nuts were taken to our house. When the hulls began to turn black, we spread the nuts on our gravel driveway. The mushy hulls fell off under the pressure of the cars’ tires. Then Granny and I wore brown cotton gloves, designated the walnut gloves, and rubbed the remaining scraps of the hull from the thick shell. It was a nasty job.

After that, Granny spread the nuts on flattened brown cardboard boxes to dry and cure inside her house for at least two weeks. Again, she was impatient and because she and I liked the flavor of green walnuts, she’d crack and pick out nutmeats for us to eat. (More than once I had a green walnut stomachache.) Granny used a hand operated lever nutcracker, mounted on a two-foot tall log, to crack the thick, hard shells. She held each nut securely, in perfect position so that the shell practically fell away from the nutmeat.

Granny’s sharp nut picker was a precise tool in her hands, and she didn’t let me or anyone else, use it. She removed half and quarter pieces, and then she’d spread those nutmeats on newspaper to dry out for a few days. Figuring that a quart jar measured a pound, she measured and then filled empty Christmas card boxes with walnuts.

Granny’s Christmas gifts depended on the growing season. Family and friends were always glad when the walnuts were good. And if tobacco sold really high, I got a crisp five-dollar bill stuck inside a Christmas card, but some years I got a one-dollar bill. No wonder I asked about the price of tobacco.



One Response

  1. Enjoyed this.

    Linda Daniel



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