Hal Foote’s Walnuts
Four out of five stars
First published in 1880, this short adventure of a boy is a look back at a time when life was slower paced, yet in many ways more predictable. Hal is a farm boy and it is October when the leaves and nuts are falling from the trees. Knowing how valuable they are to people, Hal grabs a sack and accompanied by an old dog and two half-grown puppies, he heads for the stand of walnut trees to fill the sack. It takes some time to fill the bag, so by the time he returns home, supper has come and past. Fortunately, Nancy, the old cook is willing to violate house rules and leave some supper for Hal when he comes home late.
He stores the nuts in a high room in the house and then spends several days at his friend’s house. When he returns, he finds the walnuts gone and is puzzled at the loss. Eventually, Hal discovers what happened, recovers the nuts, sells them and gets the tools that he desired.
There is no great action, events, moral or ethical dilemma in this story, it is a very simple adventure based on the life of a boy growing up on a farm in the late nineteenth century. It is also one that many boys experienced, including my father. He grew up on a farm with no modern conveniences and gathered and sold walnuts in a manner like what Hal did. My father also stored the nuts in an attic of their house, an act that attracted squirrels.This book is a look back at how short stories for young adults were often constructed in the late nineteenth century.