Cut From the Teed Tree
“Is that pecan?” I asked, pointing to heavy coffee table setting next to a rocker on Cousin Jim’s sun porch.
“Yes. It’s from a limb off the Teed tree,” he said
“Teed Tree?” I echoed. Teed? I’d not thought of him in thirty years. My memory didn’t reach past a time when he was not our rural mail carrier. It was war time I met him at the box and the lenses of his round steel-framed glasses caught the light as he crested the last rise south of our mailbox. They flashed as though he were sending visual Morse code. His image is as crisp as though it were yesterday, and it nearly brought tears to my eyes. He was a good person who was always doing for others what they were unable to do for themselves.
It was rumored that aging Mrs. Franklin was laid up with a broken leg. She depended heavily on the weekly delivery of groceries that Teed brought her.
There were events of lessor importance. One example was the time my mother needed a pint of whipping cream. She called her friend, Mildred, the wife of a local dairyman.
“Yes, I have some,” Mildred said, “I’ll send it over with Teed.”
Two hours later Mildred’s Mason jar was in our mailbox.
The list seemed endless, so why should I be surprised that someone named a tree after him?.
“The chunk I made the table from laid in the barn for at least thirty years.“Somehow it seasoned well without splitting. It must have been all that pigeon droppings that held it together,” he said, a twinkle in eyes.
We both fell silent, and I mentally reviewed a host of hand-me-down stories I’d heard as a boy while seated on the hearth. I moved to the rocker and guided my fingers along the smooth, dark surface. The physical contact seemed to bring more memories into focus. I thought of Jesse Woodfin, the person for whom my great grandfather had named the cemetery where our family plots were located. That occurred more than one hundred and thirty years before I came on the scene. In spite of the years the passage of time the stories was as fresh as the morning dew.
After serving in the War of 1812, Jesse had migrated from his native Ohio to Southwest Missouri where he married an Osage Squaw and then settled on acreage within the Osage hunting grounds. It was he who planted the seedling that after many generations became known as the Teed tree.
Over the span of Teed’s forty year mail delivery career, he had tasted the nuts from every pecan tree on his route. And of them all, he chose the tree on Fred’s farm, Tanglewood, as the one that produced sweetest flavor and the thinnest shell.
“Fred, you’ve got the finest pecan tree in all of Walnut Township,” he announced after bringing the Model A to a halt where Fred was mending a fence.
“You mean the big one part way up the lane?”
“That’s it. It produces nuts with the most robust flavor and the thinnest shell. That’s a rare combination, you know.”
“I suppose it is,” answered Fred, laying the fence stretcher aside and then turning to gaze in the direction of the giant tree. “I lost my teeth many years ago, so I’m not one to judge them.”
“You wouldn’t mind if the lady and I come to gather a few of them, would you?”
“I don’t mind at all. Take all you want.”
After that day it became known as the Teed tree.
“Aunt Willia called Dad early one morning after an overnight electrical storm, reporting that the Teed tree was struck by lightning the previous night, splitting it all the way into the root system. Uncle Fred going to call a cabinet maker. If you want a piece of the tree you probably should get it today.
“Dad and I went over with a chain saw and got a six-foot section of one limb. It was all we could load on the pickup without more help.
“I think it was the winter of 1960 when we sold all the cattle for lack of hay and there wasn’t much to keep me occupied. That’s when I remembered that chunk of pecan in the barn. I worked the better part of a week sanding the top and fitting the legs.
“Somehow, I managed to keep a handful of those pecans. I nursed them and finally got a few to to sprout. And there is stands out in the south yard – Son of the Teed Tree. We’ll have to wait awhile longer to see how good the pecans are.