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Woodworth: 'Middle' fall has arrived; time to harvest pecans

By Elizabeth Woodworth
Contributing writer
updated: 10/11/2017 11:30 AM

Lunar perigee, when the moon is closest to Earth, can bring tornadoes, hail and floods. The Oct. 10 cold front almost always brings in a chillier and more dramatic sub-season of autumn known as middle fall. The coldest morning of the season often occurs as the Oct. 13 front arrives, and chances of a low in the teens or 20s reach 20 percent in the northern half of the country for the first time since spring. The noon is darkening, favoring surgery for humans and livestock. Highs below 50 degrees now occur about 30 percent of the time in the upper half of the United States. (Countryside)

National days for the week: Oct. 10, Angle Food Cake Day and Cake Decorating Day; Oct. 11, Sausage Pizza Day, General Pulaski Memorial Day, Bring Your Teddy Bear to Work Day, Stop Bullying Day and Take Your Parents to Lunch Day; Oct. 12, Farmer's Day and Gumbo Day; Oct. 14, Dessert Day; Oct. 15, I Love Lucy Day; and Oct. 16, Dictionary Day.

Scarlet leaves are among us as the nights become cooler. If you are starting to feel a little squirrelly, you are not alone. It's the chilly fall that encourages those popular plume-tailed bandits to collect, hoard and cache nuts throughout the forest. Centuries ago, our ancestors earnestly competed with the acrobatic omnivores for those rich sources of protein, dietary fiber, vitamins and antioxidants. Today, the excitement of identifying, collecting and preparing these tasty wild epicurean treats is still present.

Pecans are best harvested right when they've fallen from the tree. A type of hickory nut, pecans are easy to harvest, delicious and meaty. To collect, use a nut collector, of course. Most hardware stores around here sell nut collectors, which are giant wire springs curved into a half-circle and fastened to a stick. As you push the spring down onto the pecan, the wire spreads and then closes up again, trapping the pecans inside the spring. After getting 10 to 15, you dump them from the spring into a bucket. While pecans are grown commercially, about half of the nation's crop is produced from native trees. Wild pecans are smaller than the dozen of commercial varieties that are grown from orchards spanning California to Georgia. If you can find one, it is worth the fee to have someone with an industrial cracker do the work for you. For those do-it-yourselfers? A shell-cracking, lever-action tool is used. (Countryside)

The only person I know who used a nut collector had a dozen or so nut trees along with a couple of sweet gums in his yard. Picking nuts and gum balls by hand was more than his knees and back would allow. My dad and Wayne Thornsberry were the gathers that I knew. They harvested pecans from trees that grew in the Saline Creek bottoms. Dad didn't have a collector, and I can't image that Wayne, a citizen of Saline Landing, would have had one either. Dad soaked the nuts and then cracked them with a lever-type cracker bolted to a board. His winter pastime was picking the meat for mom. We always had pecans. Mom used them in almost everything. Sister and I do too.

Rutherford B. Hayes: Prior to the Lincoln assassination, the notion that a president of the United States could be murdered was practically unthinkable. But is was a constant fear for Hayes, who received numerous death treats both during his bitter election fight with Tilden and after he moved into the White House. After taking office, the president ordered guards posted at White House gates. The practice of holding concerts on the mansion's grounds ended. A vegetable garden, used by prior first families as a place to stroll, was deemed too exposed, as was the south portico, where the Grants enjoyed many pleasant hours sitting in their rocking chairs. In fact, other than to play an occasional game of croquet, the Hayes family, unlike the Lincoln, Johnson and Grant families, rarely set foot on the White House grounds. It was the beginning of what has today become a pervasive fortress mentality at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This stress, and that of the job itself, made for a man who was relieved to be leaving the White House after just one term -- a pledge Hayes had made in 1876. As time wore short, he expressed no regrets. "I am now in the last year of the presidency and look forward to its close as a schoolboy longs for the coming vacation," he said in a letter to a friend ("Under This Roof" by Paul Brandus)

"How can you call this a burger with everything when it doesn't have any chocolate chips?" (Frank and Ernest)