Joan On Osage Orange

Osage orange is found in and around Hannibal. Some very aged trees used as a property/wind break on what used to be my great grandfather’s farm in neighboring Rensselaer were uprooted in this summer’s mini-tornado. The root systems were as large as the tops of most trees around here.

Osage orange trees are found in St. Louis, also. My husband, who is ‘the friend’ in the following poem, had a great story:

Forbidden Fruit

The Osage orange fruit is quite large and quite green.
Though orange-like in odor, it’s not what it seems.
It is bumpy and pitted somewhat like the brain
So “brain-fruit’s” another weird Osage fruit name.

Plus “hedge apple”, “horse-apple”, “hedge ball”, “bois d’arc”
The namers of Osage fruit sure made their mark.
There is “monkey brain”, “monkey orange”, also “bow wood”
If fame rest in names then the Osage did good.

The tree is most useful, the Osage would say
For bows and ax handles and games they might play
But what is the use of the fruit of this tree?
Few animals eat it to any degree.

A boyhood experience told by a friend
Suggested a much less than savory end
To the question of uses of grapefruit sized bombs
But it’s hardly a story they told to their moms.

It seems that an inner tube fixed to a tree
Made a world class huge sling shot to set that fruit free
To land on the boxcars of oncoming trains
And to splat and to splotch them and leave them with stains.

Today if they caught you it might not go well.
Your fun-filled barrage might land you in a cell.
Yet I seriously doubt that they’d notice the stain
Among the graffiti that’s found on a train.

4 comments on “Joan On Osage Orange

  1. joan says:

    Since I gave the pictures short shrift in this post, I have added this portion of a letter from my second cousin Virginia. I found Virginia through Larry’s blog about 5 years ago and it would never have happened any other way. I did not know she existed or that my maternal grandmother’s home was still occupied by a relative and is still a working farm. Virginia is in her 80’s and she has more zip in her than anyone I know living my sedentary lifestyle. Here is a portion of her e-mail describing the tornado. She’s on her 2nd or 3rd computer, btw.

    Note the use of the term ‘hedge’ to describe these huge trees. (Thank you Larry for the fine description in the previous post.) I was curious about the ‘hedge’ appellation and looked up my e-mail . According to this the trees have to be way over a hundred years old. Here is what she said:

    ” The trees looked as if a giant hand had grasped the top limbs and twisted them off. There were limbs down on all 4 sides of the house but none touched the house. My circular driveway was nearly blocked. The next day [..they..] came with a truck, a tractor and a chain saw. [ ….}they loaded up most of the limbs and took them out to the barnyard where they can be burned after they dry out. The men who farm for me told me there was very little damage to my crops, which had been looking great. They didn’t mention to me that the row of hedge trees (Osage oranges) that run from the barn lot most of the way to the east end of the farm had taken the brunt of the winds. At least 8 of the trees were pulled up out of the ground with the roots pointing to the sky, or broken off in weird ways. [……..] That hedge was here when my dad bought the farm in 1918.”

  2. bev says:

    Excellent poem, Joan. Also enjoyed reading Victoria’s notes about the hedge trees and seeing the photo of an uprooted tree. Up here in Canada, the trees and bushes that divide farm fields are referred to as hedgerows, which is probably a British term. Hedgerows can include trees as large as Elm, not that we have many of them remaining since the Dutch Elm disease wasted most of them. Funny note about the giant slingshot. Sounds rather dangerous!

  3. joan says:

    Thanks, Bev. This is probably still what a tree windbreak is called on rural land, and most likely widely used. My mother in law was from Ireland and she called a lot of things hedges that I thought were plants. Thing is..I just had never heard anything larger than waist high called a hedge. I was brought up in the way downtown part of little Hannibal where the only hedge I’d ever come in contact with was the scraggly boxwood that still managed to hang on beside grandpa’s old clapboard Queen Anne house.

    We all got hit with Dutch Elm disease. That was brutal. I guess it was not limited as to climate.

    Well, I like to think the sling shot was not as dangerous as the saga makes it sound. The RR tracks were recessed. Pretty far down in a ditch going under a Kirkwood’s small city overpass. The house was about a block from the once rural RR station. The little boy in question with the fabled sling shot was basically lobbing those things pretty much downhill into the ravine on the to the top of the box cars. Biography-wise I am always accurate but in the case of my whacky poems, I occasionally let my imagination drive the story further. I prescribe to the theory of never ruining a good story/poem with too much accuracy. Thing is, the truth nowadays is so sadly bizarre that I rarely ever need to elaborate.
    Read The Digital Cuttlefish’s stuff. He takes a news-clip or more per day and crafts the most spot-on outrageously funny/sad light verse. I’m in awe.

  4. Marian Kay says:

    June 6 /2016

    A good poem is always a good poem – You are a true poet Joan !

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