Support the Monkey! Tell All your Friends and Teachers

Help / FAQ

<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

the prairie grass, regardless of the torn and drooping plant. The
barberry’s brilliant fruit was likewise food for my eyes merely; but I
collected a small store of wild apples for coddling, which the
proprietor and travellers had overlooked. When chestnuts were ripe I
laid up half a bushel for winter. It was very exciting at that season to
roam the then boundless chestnut woods of Lincoln-they now sleep
their long sleep under the railroad-with a bag on my shoulder, and a
stick to open burs with in my hand, for I did not always wait for the
frost, amid the rustling of leaves and the loud reproofs of the red
squirrels and the jays, whose half-consumed nuts I sometimes stole,
for the burs which they had selected were sure to contain sound
ones. Occasionally I climbed and shook the trees. They grew also
behind my house, and one large tree, which almost overshadowed it,
was, when in flower, a bouquet which scented the whole
neighborhood, but the squirrels and the jays got most of its fruit; the
last coming in flocks early in the morning and picking the nuts out of
the burs before they fell, I relinquished these trees to them and
visited the more distant woods composed wholly of chestnut. These
nuts, as far as they went, were a good substitute for bread. Many
other substitutes might, perhaps, be found. Digging one day for
fishworms, I discovered the groundnut (Apios tuberosa) on its string,
the potato of the aborigines, a sort of fabulous fruit, which I had
begun to doubt if I had ever dug and eaten in childhood, as I had
told, and had not dreamed it. I had often since seen its crumpled red
velvety blossom supported by the stems of other plants without
knowing it to be the same. Cultivation has well-nigh exterminated it.
It has a sweetish taste, much like that of a frost-bitten potato, and I
found it better boiled than roasted. This tuber seemed like a faint
promise of Nature to rear her own children and feed them simply
here at some future period. In these days of fatted cattle and waving
grain-fields this humble root, which was once the totem of an Indian
tribe, is quite forgotten, or known only by its flowering vine; but let
wild Nature reign here once more, and the tender and luxurious
English grains will probably disappear before a myriad of foes, and
without the care of man the crow may carry back even the last seed
of corn to the great cornfield of the Indian’s God in the southwest,
whence he is said to have brought it; but the now almost
exterminated ground-nut will perhaps revive and flourish in spite of
frosts and wildness, prove itself indigenous, and resume its ancient
importance and dignity as the diet of the hunter tribe. Some Indian
Ceres or Minerva must have been the inventor and bestower of it;
and when the reign of poetry commences here, its leaves and string
of nuts may be represented on our works of art.

Already, by the first of September, I had seen two or three small
maples turned scarlet across the pond, beneath where the white
stems of three aspens diverged, at the point of a promontory, next the
water. Ah, many a tale their color told! And gradually from week to
week the character of each tree came out, and it admired itself
reflected in the smooth mirror of the lake. Each morning the
manager of this gallery substituted some new picture, distinguished
by more brilliant or harmonious coloring, for the old upon the walls.

The wasps came by thousands to my lodge in October, as to winter
quarters, and settled on my windows within and on the walls
overhead, sometimes deterring visitors from entering. Each morning,
when they were numbed with cold, I swept some of them out, but I
did not trouble myself much to get rid of them; I even felt
complimented by their regarding my house as a desirable shelter.
They never molested me seriously, though they bedded with me; and
they gradually disappeared, into what crevices I do not know,
avoiding winter and unspeakable cold.

Like the wasps, before I finally went into winter quarters in
November, I used to resort to the northeast side of Walden, which
the sun, reflected from the pitch pine woods and the stony shore,
made the fireside of the pond; it is so much pleasanter and
<- Previous | Table of Contents | Next -> Digital Library - by Henry David Thoreau

All Contents Copyright © All rights reserved.
Further Distribution Is Strictly Prohibited.

About Us | Advertising | Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Home Page

In Association with