As a small boy, listening to the stories and legends of the Chestnut trees was a most magical event to me as I strolled through the woods of the western North Carolina mountains with my father and Grandfather. Seeing the remains of massive stumps that had survived for many years I could only imagine the majesty of their size when they were at their full glory. After the chestnut blight of the 1930s, sadly the only reminder of this once dominant tree was the remaining circles of wood, stumps, with the middle rotten and gone for many years and outer wood circled and jagged looking more like something out of a fairy tale ring.
My Mom delightfully remembers as a young child with her brother scooping up handfuls of the big nuts to be eaten immediately or saved for cooler autumn days. The old familiar lyric, "Chestnuts roasting on an open fire..." is a real memory for my her. She also remembers making chestnut pies which I can only imagine would be similar to a pecan pie, a southern delight. Many people would gather large sacks of them to trade at local general stores for other needed supplies.
Young children, going barefoot all summer long would pride themselves on the tough soles of their feet by being able to stomp on the spiny chestnut burrs and gather the nuts. If you have ever tried to touch a chestnut burr, probably the Chinese version, you can appreciate this.
It is estimated that nearly 3 to 4 billion trees were lost to the blight. Now the memories are only shared by a dwindling few of the older folk that that lived in the days of the majestic trees.
Today, we, as a small woodworking shop, take great pride in preserving the wood while building our furniture. Our shop is nestled in the Appalachian woods that my Mom grew up in and that I also roamed as a young child. All of the chestnut is reclaimed now from old barns and houses as sadly there are no more trees left to be harvested. As the supply of chestnut boards dwindle, we take pride in preserving and saving for future generations the old boards with long histories, weathered patinas, and many stories to be told.