August 29, 2011

Of Bois d' Arc Apples and Bowling Balls

Growing up in Texas, I figured out real quick there are some things you can always count on like the sunrise if you live here long enough… mouthy politicians, hot summers, great bar-b-que and Bois d’ Arc trees.

You're probably wondering what a Bois d’Arc tree is? Well it’s what a lot of folks call a “trash” tree. It grows fast and tall, but it dies just as quickly. It sheds limbs like leaves and will fall over with the slightest breath of air. But the old Bois d’ Arc does have a few redeeming qualities.

Ranchers in early Texas would plant the trees in close proximity and would use the growth as a fence line when the expensive “devil wire” or barbed wire couldn’t be afforded. The trees grow in a hap-hazard, gnarly, crazy fashion and the limbs mingle together and intertwine with each other to form an almost impenetrable barrier. That being the case, cattle couldn’t get through the tangled mess of limbs, shards and leaves, making it a great alternative to the wire fence.

Another quality of the Bois d’Arc tree was the bois d’ arc apple. The Bois d' Arc apple is the vegetation the tree produces. But an apple it’s not and the last thing they are, is edible. I truly wouldn't recommend putting this fruit in your favorite corn flower bowl and setting them on the table. 

The inside of the Bois d' Arc fruit is a stringy, sinewy mess and it oozes a milky, white substance that looks and feels kind of like the glue that every kid that ever attended grade school has used. On the outside, the orb resembles a pomegranate that had grown inside out. Its light green color and small, hard nodules covering the entire surface make it a strange looking site.

Some folks say leaving the apples lying around the front door of your house will ensure no unwelcomed visits by crickets during the height of that season. Well, as best as I can recall, I’ve swept leagues of the deceased critters right past the apples lying on the ground… so much for that theory.

I grew up on the northeast side of a little town in Central Texas and our house was on the corner of Hart Street, to the west, Walcott Street to the south and to the north was Highland Avenue.

In those days, kids walked to school the better part of the year, period, or our family did anyway. And the home I grew up in was less than half a mile or so from the school. But as a 10 or 12 year old kid, the bitter cold of winter or the blazing heat of the seemingly endless summer, made that walk seem a whole lot further.

As we made our way to school, we’d alternate our route as to how we got to and from school. Some days we’d walk down Walcott, others we’d walk down Highland. On Highland there was a Bois d’ Arc tree strategically growing at the crest of Highland Hill. And it always had an ample supply of the round, sticky apples lying just under it. From the top of the hill to the school we attended was probably 300 – 400 yards, but in my 12 year old minds eye, it seemed like a country mile.

Boys are naturally curious about most things and naturally, something as strange as the bois d’ arc apple was something we couldn’t pass up. I’m not sure how it began, but one day, one of us decided to see who could roll an apple the furthest down the hill. Then another joined in and then, lo and behold, Bois d’ Arc bowling was born.

We’d place discarded soda bottles, limbs, cans or anything that stood up and resembled bowling pins at the base of that hill and take turns “bowling”. This game became so popular between us that we’d sometimes meet on Saturdays to compete.

Me, Shorty, David and a few other local boys would take turns hurling the apples down the hill to see who could get the closest to the “pins”. And you know, I can’t say that I remember any of us ever hitting the pins, but one thing I do remember is, I remember those wonderful days. What a great memory and what a great time we had playing that game.

After the game, we’d all jump on our bikes and head to Ned’s Grocery to swig down an icy .15 cent Dr. Pepper or some other cool drink to wash down the dust, sweat and heat from another hot Texas day.

We didn’t have a whole lot growing up, but I never knew that. I was fed, healthy and had a comfortable bed to sleep in, so to me, life was great. We had to pass our time thinking of things to do since there was no extra money for new bicycles and toys, guitars or the new G.I. Joe with the Kung-Fu grip.

And to tell the truth, I never wanted for anything. Life was simple, slow and looking back, it’s like seeing an album filled with old black and white photos. I still can’t figure out why all of my memories are “black and white”. Maybe it’s because my mind tells me that it’s another place and time and color might somehow take away the legitimacy of the memory. Maybe it’s because I can’t think in color. Oh well, the memories are there just the same.

Some might think that “Bois d’ Arc Bowling” was a little out of the ordinary or down right crazy. And maybe it was, to some. But we kids had a great time going crazy. But the way I look at it, creating memories and hanging out with friends is never crazy or out of the ordinary and ought to be done on a daily basis.

The Impulsive Texan

"I may not get much done, but I sure am slow"...