Pecan Research

A.C. Easley, Waco,Texas

I believe it was Irvin S.Cobb who tells of an experience he had on one occasion when he was detailed by his paper to report a lecture by some famous "Doctor” from overseas. The learned gentlemen had already begun his address when lrvin arrived on the scene and was slinging high-brow rhetoric freely mixed with jawbreakers right and left.Upon taking his seat at the reporters table he whispered to a fellow reporter: “What's his subject?” “Search me," said the other, "He has not said yet."

After lambasting the English language for two hours, the learned doctor finally knocked her completely. In the 'sţeenth" round and sat down with a dramatic · flourish. Irvin says that while the seconds were fanning the English language back to life, he jumped over the ropes and rushing up to the learned gentleman, asked him what subject, if any, he had in mind when he was preparing his address.

I Suspect that many of you will wonder when I'm through what, if anything, the committee had in mind when they assigned me this topic. It probably happened in this way When the committee were making up the program some member suggested that we ought to have someone on varieties and asked, 'Who shall we put on ?" Nobody really knows anything about do. One is just as good as another. varieties. Then someone said probably my friend Moore,'''By the way there's Easley up there at Waco. He's been trying to find out something about em for the past ten or twelve years. Maybe he 's learned something.  Let's put him on and make him. Tell us.'"all right,"said another, "and let's put' Butterfield on for East Texas and Willmann for West Texas, and maybe from · the three we will get some little information. 'Nuf said. Well, you'll know all I know when I get through, but let me tell you now it will be precious little.

The old president of the Bank where I worked so long had an account on his private books he called "Oxperience" to which he charged all losses from bad investments, etc. It thus became a calendar of his mistakes. He told me it was the most valuable account on his books.  "Oxperience" would perhaps better fit the subject-matter of this address, if such it may be called.

When I began the development of the one thing I most desired to know to my section. That's the one thing I still most desire to know.  

I had a general idea that every plant has a certain zone of greatest usefulness surrounding its place of origin. I believed, as Bro. Burkett still believes, that probably the best pecans in Texas were still undiscovered.   I spent considerable time and money trying to find such undiscovered varieties. I hoped to find one nearer my home than any of the known varieties. I procured specimens of several of the best known pecans and traveled all over the pecan area. 

While I frequently had people to say an answer to my question: Do you know of any pecans in this neighborhood that will compare with these? "Yes, so and so has some pecans bigger than any of those,"  when it came to a show-down there was no comparison in either size or quality.

In the meantime I had written to every man whose address I could get that I thought might know something about pecans, asking a number of questions, chief among which was "What pecan varieties are best suited to Central Texas?"  The man from whom I had counted most on getting some definite information about varieties simply wrote across the bottom of my letter, "Consult your local nurseryman,"and sent it back to me.

I had already consulted him and found him possessed of a fund of ignorance, staggering in its stupendity and voluminous in variety, exceeded only by my own.

So I decided to find out by experimenting what varieties were best suited to my section. That was eleven years ago and I am free to say I don't know yet. Perhaps in another eleven years I may be able to give some definite information along this line.

I bought trees and buds all over the Pecan Belt---from Risien and Halbert on the west to Monticello, Fla., on the east. I bought Persian walnut buds and trees from Pennsylvania, Oregon and Florida. Paid 7½c per nut for black walnuts from a tree that was supposed to be an extra rapid growing variety---grew a hundred feet high and I forget how many feet in diameter in 20 years. I got 200 nuts and gave two each to a number of friends around in different parts of the State and planted the remainder, about a hundred, around my fence rows. That was six years ago. I still have three trees left. They are now nearly as large as a lead pencil. I hope to live to see them as large as a broom handle at least.

Of my first buying of pecan trees of the several varieties ten and eleven years ago I have one tree. Left---a Banquet that has borne the sum total of two nuts during its whole life up to this year. Seems to have a pretty good set of nuts now. Native trees budded from this tree, however, bore as high at 14 pounds each at five years old.

I bought anything and everything in the nut line that anybody tried to sell me---except pecan orchards at \$1,000 per acre. In making a little talk before the National Nut Growers Convention over in Georgia I mentioned the fact that a friend of mine who used to live in that region told me about a friend of his having refused a \$1,000 per acre for a twelve-year-old pecan orchard was the deciding factor in my quitting banking for pecan growing. Soon after I got home from that convention I received several letters offering for sale pecan orchards, from prospective possibilities in cut-over pine land up to finished orchards ten to twelve years old, and plainly intimating that in case I should make an offer of say \$250 per acre for prospects up, to \$1,000 per acre for the finished product, I would probably not be confronted by any refusals. One man said he had 14 acres Texas river bottom set in twelve-year-old trees that I might have for $10,000---even money--­"Easily worth $14,000, thus saving 40 per cent on your investment." I saved the other 60 per cent too.

Have had some "Oxperience," believe me, with a capital O, and I have profited by it as the old banker did. The man who makes no mistakes seldom makes anything and wise is he who profits by them. If I had not been a natural born optimist I would have given up long ago.

I early came to the conclusion that top-working the native trees were the one great big thing for the nut industry in Texas. So after top-working my own I decided to assist in spreading the good work over the State while my trees were getting into profitable bearing. I wore out three Fords doing this missionary work---yes, really five Fords; for I had two of them worked over and made as good as new and wore them out the second time. 

I did top-working jobs on nearly every pecan stream in Texas, and kept on the lookout all the time for that great undiscovered variety that was to prove better than anything we know, Time after time I would hear of some pecan “bigger and better” than the samples I always carried, but after getting to the mother tree frequently with great difficulty (I put my Ford over the roads that I am sure no car has ever gone over before) always found that the report, like Mark Twain said about the one concerning his death, had been greatly exaggerated.

One man told me that he had pecans that weighed one ounce each. I told him I would give him \$10 a nut for every pecan he had that weighed an ounce. He backed up and said he believed it was a half-ounce each that they weighed. I told him I would give him \$1 per nut for every one weighing a half ounce when thoroughly dry. I had learned by sad experience about shrinkage on pecans.

I have heard of pecans that ran, 30 to the pound and 24 to the pound, but have yet to see any that run under 40 to the pound when thoroughly dry. In the Pioneer Press contest three years ago, open to the world, there were only ten entries out of the 32 submitted that ran under 50 to the pound and you remember that nearly half the varieties entered ran under 50 per cent meat. That was the first real test of varieties ever made on so large a scale and it will be a long time in my judgement before a pecan is produced that will surpass some of the records there established. The Press rendered the nut industry a great service in pulling off that contest and we are under lasting obligations to it. Of course the possibilities from cross-pollenization loom large and many of us are working along that line; but the actualities there revealed are mighty hard to beat.

I realized from the first that proper pruning and attention after budding is of more importance than the first budding; so made contracts to look after the tree for a number of years, doing the necessary pruning and re­ budding. Having had no previous experience except on my own trees and having no data to go by I made the rate entirely too low for the service rendered. Nobody suffered from this mistake except me. Some of those for whom I worked though have suffered from their own neglect in not clearing out around the budded trees so as to give them a chance to do their best. A few seemed to assume the position that they were betting me that I could not grow the fine varieties on their trees and let my budded trees stand in jungles of brush, briars and blood-weeds that would have killed any­ thing less vigorous than the pecan. I am glad to know that every man who made any effort to take care of his trees is proud of the work I did for him, and this, in a measure, compensates for my financial loss in the matter.

But, my great big mistake was neglecting my own trees while I was en­gaged in this non-productive missionary work. I should have stayed right at home not only caring for nursery trees I had set out but my top-worked natives as well, and keeping my land in a good state of cultivation. 

The biggest mistake of all, though, was leaving my place to the tender mercies of Ethiopian Eunuchs and degenerate descendants of the ancient Aztecs, who plowed up and ran over and skinned up my young trees and let the cattle and goats get in and eat them up and let jungles of Johnson grass, blood-weeds and cockleburs grow up around them in summer and then let fire get out in winter and burn them up.

When I get up to the “Pearly Gates,” if I should ever ascend so high on the heavenly journey, and St. Peter learns what I have put up with from those beasts without rising in my wrath and slaying any of them, I don’t believe he will ask any further question but will just say:

“You’ll find your berth on the top floor, Easley,. If you don’t find everything you need to make you comfortable, ring me. Get your harp and wings on the right as you pass in.”

So you understand now why I am still looking for a fire-and-fool-proof variety. My nursery trees are all gone except the mentioned a while ago, so please bear in mind that I shall say about the behavior of Varieties in My Section is based solely on what they have done on native trees on pasture land without cultivation, fertilization or spraying that have survived the attacks mentioned. I began spraying for the case-bearer this year and expect without these adjuncts.

I take it that the members of this Association care little about the behavior of any variety so long as it sheds an abundant supply of good nuts running 50 to 75 to the pound and above 50 per cent meat. You hear cotton farmer talk about the “turn-off” in the field and the “turn-out” at the gin, but the kind that most of them want to plant is the one that registers stronger on the “turn-in” at the bank. So it is with pecans. The variety that turns the most money into the bank is the one we all want. Of course there is no such one variety for all section and it takes many years longer to find out what particular variety for all section and it takes many years longer to find out what particular variety is best adapted to give a section with pecans that with cotton. It takes 2- to 25 years to really learn anything about adaptation of varieties and I have only been in the game 11 years.

Now I am going to simply name the varieties that I have growing on my place on Bosque River near Waco in the order that I consider them best adapted to that particular section of the State:

Halbert, Success, Banguet, Burkett, Delmas, Sovereign, Schley, Colorado Oliver, San Saba, Moneymaker, Froscher, Mobile, stuart, Hollis.

Don’t ever forget that this is simply my opinion at the present time, subject to change without notice, based on what they have done from the standpoint of results. You will notice that I have put some former favorites away down towards the bottom of the list. The little San Saba Pecan goes down solely on account of its size. Its daughter, Sovereign and grandson, Banquet, being much larger, sell better.

I have gotten few nuts from the last five named, though I have 8 and 9-years-old tops on native trees of each variety. My friend and neighbor, Mr. Faulkner, President of the state Horticultural Society, has some 18-years-old Hollis that he says yield more revenue than any other trees he has. Another neighbor has a 12 years-old nursery Stuart that he says yields well. So, there you are. I had started to cut back my Stuart and Hollis but when I learned this decided to wait and give them a chance to show what they will do with a little more age. The mere fact that a variety does not begin bearing very young is not necessarily against it. It may make up for lost time with compound interest when it goes begin.

Dr. Youngblood discussed Pecan Experiment Station this morning. I’ve got one right there in the heart of this great State and you are cordially invited to visit and inspect it any time. I’ll show you at present more mistakes than successes, but hope to live long enough to reverse the order.

I have grown larger Halberts than Halbert himself ever saw and larger Burketts than Burkett ever saw and larger Olivers than Oliver ever saw, and Banquet and Sovereign that make Risien’s mother nuts look like seedlings. I have grown Success and Delmas larger than ever saw from their native home in Mississippi. Come to see me. I can show you more in an hour than I could tell you in a week.

In case there are any questions shall be glad to answer them. Am sure I can answer any question you may ask-can at least say, “I don’t know.” Learned to say that a long time ago and does not embarrass me in the least to say it.

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