The Nutty Season Is Here
By Keith Gibson
September is the start of the nutty season in White Pine County. In the 1940s and 50s it affected just about everyone, especially us youngsters.
It would start out with someone telling a friend that they saw some pine cones starting to open. The exact location was to be kept secret, but that usually didn’t happen. Soon the word was out and folks started planning their foray into their favorite pine nut picking spot.
The array of specialized equipment invented by many of the locals to attack that tiny little nut would amaze even the greatest of generals.
There were long poles with hooks to grab and shake branches, hollow poles with a basket at the top to encase and shake the opened pine cone allowing the nuts to flow down the pole into a cloth bag, ladders to reach the higher branches and tarps to place under the tree to catch the nuts.
I often wondered what the squirrels and chip monks thought of the invading army of humans. It must have been intimidating to see these large creatures stealing their winter food supply. Didn’t these vile human creatures realize that without a cache of pine nuts the little furry local residents would starve? Guess, they forgot about all the food they ransacked from these same human’s picnics.
Timing was another strategy. Most of us liked to get some cones that were still green and unopened. These were very sticky with pine pitch. Gloves were used and then tossed away. The glove supply was never in doubt as Kennecott had plenty. The green cones were kept in burlap bags and hung from the rafters in the old tin garages around McGill. After a few very cold nights the cones would open and then we banged the sacks on the floor knocking the nuts loose.
We liked to take some of the green cones over to the fire at the top of our sleigh riding street. They were put in the coals. The aroma was breathtaking and the nuts were so good.
After a few cold nights in the mountains the cones opened and the nuts could be picked off the ground, if there was no snow. We always had a small can of white gas to get the pitch off our hands. We kids would try to find a large glob of pine pitch to chew as one would gum.
The oldtimers said they did this before Wrigley or someone else invented chewing gum. The nuts were cooked in various ways. Boiled, baked, roasted and even fried in butter. A dash of salt on the nuts was also used.
Any McGill school kid that was up to par always came to school with a huge Levi pocket or two of pine nuts. I don’t know where the girls hid theirs, but I am sure they had some. I know this for a fact because us boys could not possibly have put ALL of those pine nut shells in and around the school, but of course we got blamed for it. All in all the nutty season was a great time of year and is a cherished memory from those days.