The corn came first. A perfectly shaped single kernel in shades of yellow and white with a touch of pink at its root. It was under a pine tree in the woods. A squirrel or chipmunk must have brought it from the neighboring cornfield and dropped it as if foreshadowing my walk.
Maybe it gave me the idea to head out of the woods and step over the low, spindly barbed wire fence into my neighbor’s abandoned cow pasture. The pasture that is covered with tall grasses, stocky bushes, and rock sprouting a variety of pale green and gray lichen.
I always feel like I’m on top of a mountain when I walk there.
Fate and Zinnia roam freely, but I stay on the deer trails as they climb up the hill, then wind back down it. Soon I’m stepping over a crumbling rock wall into the cornfield. I leave my boot prints in patches of melting snow and mud between rows of cut corn stalks on tepee roots.
When I get to the big old shagbark hickory, I see the nuts. They’re still their shell casings. But unlike in the fall, when the casings are green and impossible to crack open, now they’re brown and fall apart in four thick even wedges when I pick them up.
Inside is a hard, beige, intact hickory nut.
I don’t know why no other animal has claimed these, but I pick up as many as I can find and put them in my pocket. Then I make my way across the cornfield, through the woods, and back to the farm.
When I get home Jon is at his desk writing. He stops to ask if I have any stories from the woods. I reach into my pocket, pull out the nuts and put them in his hand. I show him my story.
“What are they?” he asks. With a smile, I tell him they are hickory nuts and we’ll feast on them tonight.