I once glanced down while waiting for my turn in a diving class; I was never more embarrassed than when I discovered my stained feet! Walnut stain had gone through my new white tennis shoes and had stained my feet a stubborn dark brown.
Many years ago, nine members of our bike club loaded bicycles and bags and drove to northeastern Iowa, the home of Johnny Walnut Seed. I donít know his real name, but he and his wife were affiliated with American Youth Hostels Inc. As with pioneer Johnny Apple Seed, this man dedicated his life to the idea that America should have walnut trees.
Johnny traveled far and wide to get the best walnuts for seed to raise walnut lumber trees. He said, "The space a useless tree would require might as well produce black walnut wood."
He employed several work crews to establish walnut farms in his area. I really liked this man and his devotion to making America better by starting groves of black walnut trees.
Chub and I decided to follow his example on our farm here in Missouri. We set out 100 knee-high trees and planted 100 "started" black walnut seeds in our vegetable garden. Of course, we ordered those from Johnny Walnut Seed in Iowa. We trimmed, fertilized, and improved all of our "squirrel planted" Missouri black walnut trees on our 160-acre farm, as well.
Chub plowed a fenced area where cattle couldnít trample the little trees as we waited anxiously for delivery. It was 1968, and our area was unusually dry that summer. We were notified that the order wouldnít be shipped until after rains came. They finally came in the middle of the month. I was packed and ready for my l6-day trip to mainland China, and so Chub and our son, Walt, took care of the little sprouts and seeds while I was away. They had no way to water all of those young trees daily, and so when none of the "started seeds" appeared in our garden, I thought, "Iíve won some, but this time Iíve lost it."
Chub plowed the garden that fall, and we didnít give walnut trees another thought until 13 little sprouts appeared, spaced neatly in a row, the next spring. We were thrilled but they looked a lot like weeds. Without knowing, a helper didnít know about our tiny walnut trees and chopped them down. Now we were sure we were out of the walnut business for good.
The third year a strong, rapidly growing walnut shoot appeared in the garden. Again, we were thrilled. I located Johnny Walnut Seedís instructions, and Chub carefully prepared a spot where water was convenient for our fast-growing walnut tree. We nurtured it carefully and were rewarded in time. It is still bearing wonderful walnuts to this day.
Johnny Walnut Seed would be proud.