The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

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from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Growing Up On Tuggles Creek - The Chinquapin Patch

By YKW © 1985

Issue: October, 1985

(Editor's Note: Tuggles Creek is located in the Heart of the Blue Ridge Mountains, near the tiny mountain community of Meadows of Dan, Virginia. Meadows of Dan is a crossroads community where US Highway 58 Business and the Blue Ridge Parkway cross. Mabry Mill is north about 1.6 miles and Mayberry Trading Post is about 2.8 miles south on the Blue Ridge Parkway.)

Along about the last of October, we used to gather together on a Sunday afternoon to go chinquapin hunting. Usually we wound up in Uncle Jeff Shelor's fine patch, where, in clearing the land, he had carefully left all the chinquapin bushes intact and tended the land around them.

Some of the bushes were maybe ten or twelve feet tall, but most of them could be reached standing on the ground. About the time of year the little burs began to open and expose the little round, brown nuts for picking, they were delicious, especially if allowed to dry and sweeten a few days.

Sometimes they were invaded with tiny worms and one old gag went like this: Question - What is worse than biting into a chinquapin (or chestnut) and finding a worm? Answer - Finding half a worm!

We had some gambling games we liked to play with the little nuts. One fellow would hold out a clinched fist which might or might not hold some nuts and say, "Jack in the bush." The reply was, "Cut him down." The first fellow would say, "How many licks?" If you guessed the right number of chinquapins in his hand, you got them all, but if you didn't, then you had to give him as many as you missed.

Another version went:



"How Many?"

Some of the girls used to string the chinquapins and wear them around their necks for ornamental jewelry.

Sad to relate, the chinquapins are not as plentiful today. Kids just don't know what they are missing.

The Chinquapin (pronounced chink-a-pin) is a name given to several trees and shrubs closely related to the chestnut. According to encyclopedias, there are several varieties scattered all across the United States. There is an Ozark Chinquapin that differs from other chinquapins and chestnuts in that it has only one nut per bur. The golden leaved chestnut of the Pacific coast is an evergreen tree that sometimes grows 100 feet tall. It's called a giant evergreen chinquapin!

For those of you who have never seen them, chinquapins are small nuts shaped like an acorn, without a cap. They're smaller than acorns also.