Newspaperman Survives Wild Hickory Attack

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

(This is an encore column from the Curt Comments archives.)
I will tell you up front, this is a nutty story.
I enjoy getting outside in the fall when the air is cool & crisp. And gathering persimmons and hickory nuts are a way to enjoy the out of doors and later enjoy the fruits of Mother Nature. I have learned that while the big tall hickories may grow on the hills and hollows of southern Indiana forests, it is the bottomland hickory that will produce the largest nuts.
Hickories need a lot of water to produce fruit and the hills just don’t have enough moisture. I have seen first hand the quarter sized fruit on the wilderness hills and gasp in awe at the goose egg sized nuts produced in the bottom woodlands.
This past week, after some cool, gentle breezes, I had some extra moments so I took a detour on returning to the wilderness and stopped nearby low ground hickory stand.
Over the years I have learned where three trees that produce goose-egg size hickory nuts are found. I walked past the small cueball size nuts on the ground leaving them for the squirrels.
When I came to the large fruited hickory tree I busied myself with alternatingly focusing my bifocals for looking for nuts then hulling them and dropping them in my bucket, I could relax and contemplate life. When you sit in front of computer or deal with people most of the day, getting away by yourself can be considerable therapy.
I thought about how to use the nutmeat in pies, cookies and just an occasional munching. I also thought about the early Native American hunter-gatherers who had originally inhabited this land before we drove them off and proclaimed it as our own in the name of civilization. And they were doing the same thing I was doing, only for them it was a way of life.
As a combine was busy at work in a field in the distance, I listened to the bluejays as they hopped from oak limb to limb searching for acorns. Drying leaves crunched under my feet as I gleaned for hickory gold.
Then it happened.
As I bent over to pick up some more hickory nuts, a stiff breeze suddenly belted the woods and I heard a peppering from the tree tops as gravity took over.
Squirrel hunters know the sound of a squirrel losing a grip on a hickory nut and hearing it brush leaves out of its way before falling with a thud to the ground.
Multiply that times at least twelve. Folks, it sounded like a machine gun. No, an avalanche of hickory nuts had been let loose and it was right over me. (OK, I jest.)
I had seen enough cartoons to know that if I looked up, one would smack me right in the nose so I hunkered down in a squat, used my arms to cover my head, gritted my teeth and waited for the worse.
Mortar shells from enemy fire seemed to land all around me. Thud! Thud! Thud! Some so close that I felt the thud before I actually heard it. (OK, so I jest again.) I survived the barrage with only a glancing blow to my backside. There is enough padding there that no injury was sustained.
I remained in that head-covered looking like I was taking an outdoor squat for several moments awaiting a second wave of nut bombs that never came so I returned to gathering those monster sized nuts.
I harvested nearly a 3 1/2 gallon bucket full in little time and made my way out of the woods to my old mini-SUV.
But I believe, as a humanitarian gesture for other hunter-gatherers, I shall return to that woods and post a sign near that aggressive hickory: Don’t worry about this tree’s bark but watch out for its bite