Iowa Writes

ARLYN NORRIS
Pecans


There's an abandoned pecan orchard near Sunrise and I-10. . . . free to pick . . . tons of nuts . . . probably a hundred trees. . . . too old to be profitable, I guess. . . . want to go out there Sunday afternoon and pick them up off the ground
for a while? Greg


My wife, Wanda, and I fled Iowa's winter, seeking refuge in Tucson. Although it was only for a week, it was that magical time between Christmas and New Year's Day when time seems to stand still.
        In response to the text that my wife's brother sent us, we piled into the minivan along with our son, daughter-in-law and two young granddaughters and went in search of the pecan orchard. After driving under this and that interstate overpass, we skirted through a short gravel road, and there it was, the pecan orchard, against a backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains, swirls of purple waves skirting the horizon.
        The six of us spilled out of the minivan, taking little jumps through a shallow ditch and into the orchard, the sun warm on our faces. Our granddaughters, three and seven, carried small baskets with tall handles that their mother had given them. She passed out large cloth grocery bags to the rest of us. I couldn't help but smile when I spotted Greg, already picking up pecans, the bottom of his white plastic, five-gallon bucket filled with brown shells.

There's an abandoned pecan orchard near Sunrise and I-10. . . . free to pick . . . tons of nuts . . . probably a hundred trees. . . . too old to be profitable, I guess. . . . want to go out there Sunday afternoon and pick them up off the ground
for a while? Greg


My wife, Wanda, and I fled Iowa's winter, seeking refuge in Tucson. Although it was only for a week, it was that magical time between Christmas and New Year's Day when time seems to stand still.
        In response to the text that my wife's brother sent us, we piled into the minivan along with our son, daughter-in-law and two young granddaughters and went in search of the pecan orchard. After driving under this and that interstate overpass, we skirted through a short gravel road, and there it was, the pecan orchard, against a backdrop of the Santa Catalina Mountains, swirls of purple waves skirting the horizon.
        The six of us spilled out of the minivan, taking little jumps through a shallow ditch and into the orchard, the sun warm on our faces. Our granddaughters, three and seven, carried small baskets with tall handles that their mother had given them. She passed out large cloth grocery bags to the rest of us. I couldn't help but smile when I spotted Greg, already picking up pecans, the bottom of his white plastic, five-gallon bucket filled with brown shells.
        In reality, the orchard was more like 500 trees planted in a rectangular grid.  But in no time, we were experts at singling out the pecans, angled wildly between slivers of straw-like grass. Others seemed as if they were playing a game of hide-go-seek, taking refuge under the bronze-colored leaves that the trees had shed that fall. But we found them by the familiar feel of their hard, round shells under our feet.
        Many of the tree branches still clung to the dark brown outer husks that had covered the pecans' inner shells, stubby and sausage-shaped. Each husk looked like an empty mouth with four pointed lips; brittle and coffee-colored, curled back from the center.
        Lazy conversation floated between us as we bent over, gathered the nuts, and tossed them into our containers. Sometimes I wandered away from the rest of the group, lured by the promise of another trove of pecans under the trees that lay ahead. I wasn't thinking about anything in particular; I was focused on finding as many pecans as I could.
        An hour's worth of work may not seem like a lot but if you've ever gone pecan-picking, you know it can be a back-breaking proposition. Greg had his bucket half-full. But when the rest of us poured our gleanings into one of the grocery bags, we filled only two-thirds, at best.
        As tired as we were, nothing would deter us. Back at my son's home, the shelling process began. My daughter-in-law spread an old sheet on the living room floor to catch the dust and particles of shell that occasionally flew astray as we cracked the nuts. We laid out an array of "tools"—our makeshift invention: a pair of pliers that cracked the shells; a flat-headed screwdriver that split the nutmeats in half. This way, we could peel away the thin layer of shell that separated the two halves.
        After another two hours of laughing, talking and cracking pecans, we had accumulated about four cups of shelled pecans. And we hadn't even cracked half of the nuts we had gathered.
        Early the next morning, Wanda baked a pecan pie. Greg joined us for dinner, savoring with us the flakey crust, the dark, sweet filling and the sweet aroma of the roasted nuts.
        We didn't pay for the pecans, but we worked hard on them, and invested a lot of time. Maybe the pecans weren't as free as Greg had promised, but the real value wasn't in the number of pecans we garnered, but in the experience we shared: filling our lungs with fresh air, touching the good earth and letting it seep through our fingers, and letting the sun warm our faces, and our backs.

more

About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


ARLYN NORRIS

Arlyn Norris is a pastor at St. Paul Lutheran Church in Treynor, Iowa.  His writing can be found in Awake At Sunrise.

We are pleased to make available The Daily Palette Mac OS X Dashboard Widget! Download this Widget to see daily works by pressing F12.

Become our fan on Facebook!