I pulled into a little lot where the signage indicated tractor part sales. But I could tell I was in the right place to let go of these walnuts. There were orange bags stacked high on palates. There was a truck backed up to an area where a small crew was shoveling from the bed. At least five trucks of all sizes pulled in after me. I got out and went inside. The lady behind the counter acted as if I was on my own with this process and told me to line up outside.
I go back out to the truck and think everyone and his brother showed up while I was in there with my brief inquiry. Most everyone wearing flannel shirts and blue jeans with black walnut stain, work boots, missing their teeth, looking like hygiene was not one of the important elements of the day. And…most had a cigarette hanging from their lips. I backed up toward the area cause I knew I should be next and while they were still shoveling out of the same truck I noticed coming in, I walked over to one of the fella’s at the station.
“I’m foreign to this process,” I yelled over the noise of the hulling machine.
“You’re what?” He responded with a look of confusion.
“I ain’t done this before,” I yelled back.
“Oh! He said and pointed toward the line across the parking lot. “Go get in line.”
“I believe I was here before all those in line already, Sir.” Fortunately one of the fellow workers has seen me pull in, probably noticing me due to having a golden child hanging out the back window and he shouted, “She was here first, I seen her!”
So, I got my place and backed the truck in. Two of the fella’ s wearing flannel shirts and caps, one with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth started shoveling. I started asking questions…cause for one thing, I was foreign to the process having picked up walnuts as a child, but not been a part of the selling. For another thing, when you feel out of place, like you walked into another world, it helps with the anxiety level to chat someone up.
The hulling machine had a belt that lifted the walnuts up to be hulled. As they were hulled it spit the refuse out to the right down another belt into a bed of a truck. To the left it spit out the walnut (still in the shell). A poochy bellied fellow wearing jeans and a white t-shirt stood there with an orange mesh bag catching the walnuts as they came out. His poochy belly was accented by the walnut stain on his t-shirt which seemed to indicate his belly’s frequent contact with the product.
Evidently, I was a threat…This is the second time this week I’ve been a threat but I’ll save the first experience for another day. This day, standing beside my truck, as the flannel shirt wearing country man shoveled walnuts from the bed of my truck into the hulling machine, with a partial cigarette hanging from his lips, I was treated as a threat yet again.
She was walking up behind me as I asked about the use of the discarded hulls. He slowed and explained they drove it "up the hill there", pointing in the direction, and "spread it out…it's like a fertilizer." She swoops in, refreshes his front flannel pocket with a new pack of cigarettes. He never stops working, they move together as if they have practiced this many times. Without stopping she picks the partial cigarette from his lips, plants it in her lips, glares at me and walks away. I was so relieved she “marked” him like that cause it would have been a real career changer for me if I had been given the opportunity to fall for him.
Three and a half mesh bags of walnuts. The fellow with the walnut stained t-shirt weighed my product and gave the blue memo note to the fellow that almost had my heart before Cruella stepped up. It read 177 …He told me to take it inside and the lady behind the counter would cut me a check. I thanked him for his help and pulled up to the door. The lady wrote out a check and handed it me. Yep, folks, $13.00 per 100 pounds after hulling…my truck bed almost full held 177 lbs hulled. The check for $23.01 was accepted with a smile and a thank you.
When I walked back through the door viewing all the trucks with the women and men waiting their turn to dump and gather a small check that will probably just cover their carton of cigarettes, their desperateness hung heavy in the air…and Me in my dark Gap jeans tucked into my snazzy orange rain boots, my clean black shirt getting into a nice Toyota truck, sporting a well feed, beautiful golden child…yep, when at all possible, I'm driving Ms Daisy… I felt so out of place and like I had mocked them.
Might seem nutty to you, but regardless, I did drive away with a feeling of accomplishment; for the life experience, the enlightenment, the connection with country.