Black walnuts, white squirrels and a bucket list

I received an email from Susan Yarber, wishing me Happy National Walnut Day. She knows that I enjoy walnuts, I keep them around all the time. They are reported to be one of the better nuts to eat as they have compounds that may be good for our brain. Plus, I just like the way they taste.

I have a lot of good memories involving this nationally celebrated nut. I have written about the black walnut cakes that my mother made and the memories of the large black walnut trees in the backyard at my grandparents’ home. They were sure messy and a lot of effort is required to harvest them from their fortified housing, but it's certainly worth the effort.

There is an annual Black Walnut Festival in historical Bethania, NC at the end of September. It's an Art's, Crafts, Food, and Music Festival and you may also find some black walnuts. I arrived mid-day, and the nuts were almost gone, there was enough for me, and I was able to walk around snacking on the delightful flavor of black walnuts as I enjoyed the festival offerings.

If I remember correctly, the walnuts were not actually from Bethania. As it turns on the festival is named in horror of the past. As the story goes, before the founding of Bethania the area was known as Black Walnut Bottom Lands and had rich fertile soil which made the area perfect for settlement. Bethania was official establishment date of 1759 and was the first planned Moravian settlement in North Carolina.

Lack of an abundance of local American Black Walnut trees dropping their annual yield on the ground did not diminish the enjoyment of the quaint and well-presented Black Walnut Festival.

White Squirrels are also an exciting discovery in the Carolinas. I recall my first visit to the High Hampton Inn in Cashiers, NC. One morning on the porch, I noticed what at first I thought was an albino squirrel making its way along the trunk of an oak tree. Naturally, I had to get a closer look and to my surprise and delight, my approach did not seem to be a concern. Upon closer observation, I realized that this white squirrel did not have pink eyes, which would be a telling sign of an albino. His eyes were dark, and my curiosity was then escalated to a much higher level.

A bit of research would soon shed light on this fascinating display of nature. As the story goes, the dark eyed white squirrel is a variant of the Eastern Grey Squirrel. One story suggests that in the late 1940's a carnival animal truck overturned and a pair of white squirrels were caught while playing in the Pecan Grove of a Mr. Black who gave them to Mr. Mull who then gave them to his niece, Barbara. An unsuccessful attempt was made to breed them in captivity, when eventually released back into nature young white squirrels were soon spotted in Brevard, NC.

Over the years, the population would grow and become celebrated and protected in 1986 with the passing of a city ordinance declaring and establishing a sanctuary for Squirrels, especially the white one. Curious travelers like myself come from near and far to get a look at the White Squirrels. Brevard celebrates with the well-attended annual White Squirrel Festival.

White Squirrels have also been reported in Greenwood SC and a few other states, but in general, they are not common everywhere. 

Not long ago Mark Daye remarked on one of my stories about Ocracoke; he said it's on the bucket list. My concern with the bucket list for things to do later in life is that the bucket gets too heavy to lift. I understand the concept, however chasing white squirrels and hunting black walnuts take effort. So maybe it's better to put a few of the less important things in the bucket and do the things Now that sparks our curiosity.