Being from Mid-Missouri, there are two things you know you can count on in the month of October-beautiful fall leaves and black walnuts dropping from their trees like it's nobody's business. And we were blessed (sarcasm implied) with an abundance of walnut trees in and around our yard.
We moved onto the farm in mid-October, but with everything else to do that year, the walnuts weren't high on our list of priorities. The next year, however, we decided helping to pick up walnuts would be a great way for the kids to learn a lesson in a) sticking with a job until it's done b) working together as a family and c) money earned is better than money given.
Seven year-old Zach and four year-old Elizabeth were eager and excited when John and I told them what we would be doing and that once the walnuts were gathered, we would sell them to the hullers; splitting the money earned between the two of them. Two year-old Olivia helped too (sort of), but we all know what the help of a two year-old is like and she had no concept of money, so...
If you've ever picked up walnuts, I don't have to tell you why the kids quickly tired of the job. It's messy work, a bit dangerous (have you ever been hit on the head by walnuts dropping to the ground?)and even kids get tired of repeatedly bending and standing. Not to mention the fact that just when you have them all gathered, a big gust of wind (or even a little one) comes along and knocks a bunch more to the ground; meaning you have to start all over again!
With a lot of coaxing and prodding, bending over, crawling on our knees and stained fingers (even through gloves), the ground and trees were finally walnut-free and the bed of our full-sized pickup was filled to over-flowing with feed sacks and buckets of walnuts. Zach was just sure he and his sister were going to be rich and started talking about what he might want to do with some of the money he earned.
Much to Zach and Elizabeth's grave disappointment, though, the entire truckload of walnuts brought a measly $13 after they were hulled. Hardly the windfall they were expecting, to say the least. Even John and I were somewhat surprised at how little they received for all their hard work and dedication.
After a little family meeting, it was decided the $13 would be just enough to fund a family pizza night; something the kids readily agreed to.
The original lessons we hoped to teach our children in the gathering of all those walnuts were taught, but they were somewhat overshadowed by another equally important lesson--the lesson that says life isn't always fair and we don't always get what we deserve, but in the end, the best reward is always that of being able to know you did you best no matter what.
For the next twenty years, every fall found us picking up walnuts. It had to be done. But never again did we take them to the hullers. No, we decided to save some gas and do our part for our forest friends and dump them into the woods for the squirrels and other critters to enjoy.
And just in case you are wondering, the kids loved just about everything about growing up on a farm, but they never did learn to love picking up walnuts-except for that one time, but more on that next week....