Pecan Tree Obligations

SG| I am fully aware of some habits and traits that are no doubt annoying to my family. I’m good with the toilet seat, and I always put the cap back on the toothpaste tube, but get me in the car and things get iffy. If we cross a state line, there will be honking. Pass over a river? I am obligated to announce its name loudly. If no one pays me any attention, I will likely say it again, perhaps quietly to myself and any who have taken a sudden interest.

I’ve recently noticed that another landmark I uncontrollably point out, as if by some unconscious tick, are old pecan orchards. As soon as I spot a stand of pecan trees with any shred of organization to them, I am duty-bound to talk over whatever else may be going on to alert everyone of its presence. “That was a pecan orchard, there.” My son sleeps, my daughter sing-screams a song lyric and my wife gives a half-nod before returning to her smart phone. “Used to be a pecan orchard,” I’ll mutter softly.

I am clueless to the business of pecanning.
And yet, I may be its biggest advocate.

Growing up, our yard was shaded by two massive pecan trees: One in the front yard and one in the back. Whether it was part of an orchard at some point, I do not know, but pecan trees, their fruits and their bright-green, shabby, sticky leaves were an integral part of my childhood.

Treehouse in a Pecan Tree
Craig playing in the pecan tree, circa 1985.

The backyard tree was the site of an epic tree house our dad built. Seeing photos of it now, as a fellow father, are humbling. A covered portion with chest-high walls opened up to a porch area where woven rope netting kept us from toppling out from under the rail. There was a trap door, a little ladder, some stair-steps coming up from the ground. All supported by three massive limbs of that pecan tree.

For the front tree, which always seemed more productive, we kept long-handled nutgatherers in the carport. That way you didn’t have to bend over to pick up the pecans. We had nutcrackers and picks and actually used them. And it was a frequent necessity to pause and peel a few pecan leaves off the soles of my bare feet before coming inside.

A little further down the road from our house was an old stand of pecan trees, in neat rows, at a major intersection. Perhaps it was here that I learned the distinctive markings of a pecan crop, gazing out the window from the back seat as my mom played the Oldies station. In my years it wasn’t an active orchard — never did I see men patrolling through the shade, stooped to gather the trees’ bounty into sagging slings. Or poking at clutches of nuts with long poles. I really don’t have the faintest idea what took place in those rows. I am clueless to the business of pecanning. And yet, I may be its biggest advocate.

There are no pecan trees in our yard now, and a part of me is sad that my children will never be able to pick a nut off the ground outside their own home, crack it open on the spot and enjoy the tender meat within. But I have spotted at least one aging orchard not five miles from the house. And should the opportunity arise, I will detour to pass by. And my family will know it. Oh, how they will know it.

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