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Perspective: Feasting on acorns

Pumping our bike tires for a late summer ride brought my wife Breja and me close to the ground to get a good look at the new arrivals on our driveway. The acorns. The white oak by the shed was dropping its fruit, and the sun washed asphalt

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Chris Fink
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The proper grip to achieve the maximum whizziness from an acorn cap whistle.

presented a pointillist canvas of shiny acorns and their rough caps. Soon we had forgotten about the bikes and were collecting and even fondling palmsful of acorns. Feel that, Breja said. The inside of the cap sure is silky. Indeed, the concavity where cap meets kernel is pure velvet on your fingertips. If you rub the inside with your thumb and the rough outside with your finger you get a yin and yang sensory experience: the whole nut.

Is there any other nut that has a hat? Breja asked. I don’t know, I said, removing my bike helmet. But I looked it up later. The answer is that acorns are in fact nature’s only cap nut. There are loads of things you can do with acorns. You can eat them if you extract the nut meats and boil them for centuries. But touching them is a quicker fix. I thought then of my friend Fred Burwell who first taught me about an acorn whistle. If you take the acorn cap between your two thumbs and blow into your knuckles, you can make a bright and whizzy whistle! It had been years since I had made an acorn cap sing, and as I put my bike away, I was worried I had forgotten the trick. After a few huffs I was proud to know that I could still make the whistle, which sounds like this:

I’m Chris Fink and that’s my perspective

Chris Fink is a professor of English and Environmental Studies at Beloit College. He is the author of Farmer's Almanac, A Work of Fiction.