Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Travis Dulaney and The Black Walnut Tree

The black walnut, at first, isn’t black at all but is green. In most cases in the life the walnut, the covering only turns black after the nut has detached itself or has been detached from the tree limb and dried out on the ground for a good week or more. We would sit in old refurbished lawn chairs that my mom acquired from someone. She had purchased a roll of the plastic strapping to completely re-strap the chairs. We were "high class" sitting in those chairs. They looked like new and no one would know that we had cut and fastened the new straps to old frames unless we told them so.

Often we would sit under the old tree and shoot the walnuts out of the tree with our Red Rider B B guns. Later in life we graduated up to a .22 rifle as long as an adult was out there to make sure we didn’t shoot each other, a chicken, a neighbor’s dog or most important of all, the windows. Many hours were passed shooting walnuts out of that tree.

Once they were down in sufficient numbers, we would gather them up as ammunition for wars we would fight as we pretended to be men. It really didn’t matter who was visiting at our house and didn’t matter how many people participated but once the idea of a “war” was hatched, it was every man for himself. The semi-soft outer covering of the green walnut would provide a limit to the damage one could inflict with a projectile but not much. In most cases one of the younger of the competitors would get hit and begin to cry which signaled an end to the conflict and the beginning of the evasion and escape portion of our war. I do not remember many times that a victor was declared which forces one to question what the point was to begin with. My first cousin Travis, the oldest son of my Uncle Jimmy Dulaney and Aunt Nell (Plunkett) was 3 years older than me. He was the one who had the honor of christening me between the eyes on a late afternoon one spring. As I recall, and as usual, he wasn’t playing war. He wasn’t playing anything, but was annoyed with me because I had failed to keep up with him while shucking corn. As a pickup load had been piled up under the tree, the designated corn shucking area, it was our job as kids to shuck the corn and pull the silks out from between the kernels of corn. A tedious and boring task for a kid with too much energy became unbearable when something of interest captured my attention. Travis, being the older and wiser of the crew, was also the enforcer of unspoken laws and did not hesitate to bring my focus back to the task at hand. He didn’t want a “whoopin” and he knew that if one of us got it, we both would.

Once, Travis and I were tasked with fixing a barbed wire fence around our 11 acres. We were using a staple puller to pull old staples out of the cedar posts. The staple puller resembles greatly a crowbar but is only 10 to 12 inches long. Travis found that I wasn’t working hard enough and suddenly decided to pop me in the top of the head with it. A knot instantly arose at the point of contact on my head and I instantly broke and ran for the house. My dad saw me running across the back yard and met me to see what was the matter. When I told him, he picked up a broken hoe handle from a pile of rubbish that was close bye and proceeded to whip me all the way back to the barn. His words of comfort came in the form of “quit acting like a widder woman and get that fence done." From that day forward two things were clear to me. 1. I didn’t really like Travis anymore and, 2. Never, ever, run to dad for help.

Ken Dulaney, 2003


  1. I remember those black walnuts well. I also remember not being fast enough to out run you or Glen chunking them at me. I bet mom spent many hours trying to get out black walnut stains, with no success. I also remember how proud we were of that new strapping. I would love to hear your version, If you remember, of the yellow cans of paint mom acquired. Awesome post and memory. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Ken, I am so excited to find out that you are blogging! Great blog! You and your siblings are such gifted writers, and I'm glad that your are sharing your writing with others. Keep 'em coming! Mona