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As the photo I just posted illustrates, we had a lot of black walnut trees on the farm where I grew up. My brother and I would pick up the walnuts for our Christmas money — it was nasty work, especially if the weather had been warm and the outer husk of the walnuts had grown mushy. Then our fingers would get black and smelly from the tannin of the soft, maggot-ridden hulls.

But oh! the thought of “free” money just lying on the ground, waiting to be picked up! We would wait for the huller to come around–a great, noisy machine that set up in the yard of the feed store or implement dealer. And the question around school was — what were they paying this year? Four cents a pound? Five? Six? Our Christmas present purchasing power was governed by it.

And second oh, the great letdown when twenty bags of walnuts went through the huller and were reduced to three or four of the hulled nuts. Dad always brought home a bag for winter cracking and picking. My clumsy hands were better suited for the gross work of picking walnuts out of the pasture than for the tedious, fine labor of picking out the nutmeats.