Instead of obsessing over how I could be killed in a nuclear war with North Korea, I’ve chosen to obsess about other ways I might die in the near future. I’m currently thinking I’ll succumb to black walnuts. They seem to be out to get me.
There appears to be a surplus of black walnuts this year – or a shortage of squirrels. In the 23 years combined that I’ve lived on my property, I haven’t seen as many walnuts as I have this fall. They’ve been covering a good portion of my yard for a few weeks now. As they’ve been dropping on the ground, I’ve been picking them up so I can mow my yard. I have a fear that the mower blade will catch one and lob it against the house. Because they’re so round and coated with a tennis ball-like substance when they come off the tree, I just know that they’re likely to ricochet at my head with such force that it would knock me off my riding mower and my toes will get sliced off by the mower blade because I always wear sandals when I mow. I will then bleed out in my front yard because my neighbors, who are really good at minding their own business, will assume I’m just enjoying the fall scenery from a new perspective, because I’m weird that way. That’s one good way for me to die.
Another likely way for me to meet my demise is to mow directly under a black walnut tree. After clearing my entire front yard of walnuts, I’ve quickly jumped on my mower to cut the grass before any more walnuts fall, only to have walnuts frequently drop right in front of my face, causing me to freak out because I think they’re birds trying to attack. This is a reasonable reaction because I’ve had a bad history with birds and the mere thought of them makes my heart race; thinking about one dive-bombing my face like a Kamikaze pilot is heart attack inducing material.
I’ve been on edge the past few weeks, while stepping very carefully in my yard so that I don’t twist an ankle. Black walnuts are very sneaky when they fall to the ground and immediately change into their camouflage uniform so that they blend in with the autumn leaves that have also fallen. Last weekend, I went for a walk in Minnesota’s Whitewater State Park to unwind and twisted my ankle with my first step onto the walking path as a black walnut ambushed my foot. I immediately wondered if it fell off of me—out of my pocket, out of my hair—but then I looked down the path and saw that it was covered with black walnuts, so the one that attacked me belonged to the park.
I proceeded very carefully with my sore ankle. I spent the majority of my time in that beautiful autumn-colored environment looking down at the dirt path so that I wouldn’t wipe out on a walnut. As I approached a lookout point, I took my eyes off the path momentarily to appreciate the breathtaking view from the hilltop and immediately slipped on a black walnut and lunged forward and saw that both sides of the narrow path had vertical drop-offs that were inviting me to free fall to my death 80 feet below—with a little assistance from a black walnut . . . another great way to die.
The good news is that autumn is well under way and I believe that there are only about 75 nuts left on one of my black walnut trees. The end is in sight. My war with the walnuts will soon be over. In a week, or so, I expect I will no longer have to carefully navigate the mine field when I do yard work. Until they have all fallen, I will continue dumping pails of them on the edge of my property where it is shaded, and hopefully the nuts will be unable to grow into dutiful soldiers assisting in lobbing their ammunition at me. To be safe, I will be checking that area next spring with my pruning shears just in case a sapling should sprout. I’m a tree lover and hate the thought of cutting down a tree, but this is war, and the rules of personal conduct change when it comes to self-defense.
Speaking of self-defense, if America’s conflict continues with Kim Jong-un, I have a stockpile of black walnuts in my backyard that our military could use to take him out of commission. And we could all successfully avoid dying in a nuclear war and find more interesting ways to die.
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