Out On The Mudline
Ode To The Pesky Little Persimmon Sprout
By W. P. Sissell
My story today is about the Persimmon, that pesky little thing that sprouts up in a lot of unwanted places. Speaking of sprouts-my mother-in-law, Mrs. Nettie Lou Stafford Shipp, “Noo” to her grandchildren-loved to tell about her experiences with Persimmon sprouts.
She grew up in the hills of Fayette County Tennessee. They, the children, called their place “The Dark Corner” because the county road ended at their driveway. Ms Nettie Lou had five sisters and four brothers (I met all of these but two of the brothers before Nannette and I married). It seems there was one field far from the home and barns, quite a trek for the children four times daily unless they carried their lunch.
They, unofficially, named that field “Egypt.” The field, being close to the creek, literally came to life every spring with sprouts, mostly Persimmon. Papa was a firm believer in clearing a field of sprouts before plowing and they had to stay ahead of Papa and his plow. This was his children’s mission in “Egypt.”
They did not think of that field as being another “Goshen.” If you look in a “Tree Book” you are likely to find a good description of their “Egypt.” When you ask, “Why a field like that?” you have the answer when you get to the description of the sites of its occurrence: widely scattered sites on wet flats and along the margins of sloughs and swamps. It develops best on the newer alluvial areas in large bottoms. The animals that feed on the persimmon frequent these locales. Its fruit, the persimmon, is eaten by many species of wildlife but especially opossum, raccoon, fox and deer. Henry Heafner, with whom we do cardiac rehab, told me that he had several thousand Persimmion seedlings set out on some hunting land to serve as animal food, primarily deer.
There are over thirty species and although most of us are not familiar with the Persimmon as other than a small tree, on a good site it may obtain heights of 60 to 100 feet. Can you imagine the number of bushels of persimmons produced by one of these? The easily polished wood, black to brownish in color, is heavy and its main use is for golf club heads and shuttles in textile mills.
Recently, in a cardiac rehab class, one of the trainers in a conversation with another participant, suddenly exclaimed, “Let’s ask Mr. Sissell, he knows about many things.” Their question was, “Do you know how to predict the winter season using a Persimmon seed?” I didn’t know everything for I didn’t have the slightest idea about their question. The lady with whom she was talking explained it very simply and the trainer, Kim, disappointed with me, immediately went for her “laptop” and in a few minutes had her friends story confirmed.
If you open up a persimmon seed by carefully separating the cotyledons, you will find at one juncture a small structure (the radical) which will become the root. In the persimmon that radical may be in the shape of a knife, a fork or a spoon. When it is found shaped like a knife it foretells a severe winter; a spoon foretells a lot of snow shoveling and a fork foretells a mild winter. I have opened seeds from two trees in our yard and found nothing but spoons.
My neighbor, two miles to the east, has found only spoons. I do wonder who found these utensil shaped radicals first and connected them with the weather. I don’t know from whence the original prediction comes. I do know that my wife Nannette’s great granddaddy, Dr. Felix G. Shipp, a medical doctor in the 1840s, collected herbs and compounded much of his medicine. When green the fruit is an astringent. If you bite into the green fruit it will cause your mouth to “pucker.” At any rate for some the Persimmon has another use-a long range weather forecaster.
Our wish for you is a great week. Our thanks go out to you for your support. I’m about to forget to pass on to you that the future president of the U.S. of A. did pass by our front door, actually crossed our farm. There was a McCain on the place again. Seemed like old times. You can reach me at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or email@example.com.