I Wuz Just Thinking: Tales of the Chinaberry Tree

chinaberries hanging from an East Texas tree.

I always felt I could climb the old Chinaberry tree beside our house, hide from my siblings and have my own private thoughts.

I recently read a column that one of my favorite columnists had written.  John Moore, the Country Writer, told of the Chinaberry trees at his grandparent’s home when he was growing up.

The words Chinaberry trees got my mind glowing with memories of my youth.

We had a large mature tree in our front yard next to the garage.  I loved climbing trees and that was always my favorite.  It’s limbs were spaced just right for climbing up really high.  I felt I could hide from my siblings and have my own private thoughts.

Betty Mahurin Baker

For most of the years, we had a rope swing hanging from a strong limb.  I had very long hair.  After shampooing my hair, I loved to get on the swing, lean back a little and let the air and sunshine dry my hair.  By swinging back and forth, the air blew through my locks, drying them in matter of minutes.

Some days, my siblings and I would climb out on a limb, and were able to step over to the roof of the garage.  If the roof was not too hot, it was fun to lie back and describe to one another the shapes of the big white fluffy clouds above, or, if we sneaked out of the house on a summer night, we could search the stars.

Sometimes, the neighbor boy, Jonny, would come over and we would all play battle. The hard green berries grew abundantly on the tree.   We would throw the green berries at one another.  Even though our parents predicted that we would put someone’s eye out from the berries, no one was ever hit in the face.

In the heat of the summer, kinfolk would come over and sit in chairs beneath the Chinaberry tree.  We kids sat on blue-jean quilts placed on the ground.

Someone always brought out our hand-cranked ice cream machine. Mother heated the milk in the kitchen and added the ingredients to make peach ice cream.

Daddy would have already been to town and bought the large chunk of ice from the ice house.  Arriving home, he used a pick to break the ice into smaller pieces.  These were placed around a metal canister filled with the milk/sugar/egg/vanilla/junket/peaches mixture.

After the lid was placed on the canister, salt was added.  More ice and more salt were added.  A pillow was placed on the top of the churn for someone to sit while another pulled the hand crank round and round until it was too hard to turn.

After the mixture set a little while, Mother removed the beater inside the canister and began scooping the frozen sweet desert. I can just taste those sweet pieces of fresh peaches in the frozen cream.

If that tree could talk, it would tell so many stories of family and friends who had enjoyed it’s shade while visiting.  It would describe how the children climbed it’s limbs and used its berries to throw while we children were running and chasing one another

Memories of the ole Chinaberry tree at home, many years ago, as I wuz just thinking.

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