Go get your buckeyes right now!

If it wasn’t for bad luck, you wouldn’t have no luck at all?  Maybe you need to pick up some buckeyes.  A lucky buckeye in your pocket is guaranteed to bring you luck.

horse chestnutBut, wow, the protective covering on buckeyes sure doesn’t look lucky.  This spiny capsule is meant to keep away all but those really in need of luck.

A buckeye does its best work if it’s inside your pocket. When you first put one in your pocket, in the fall, right after the nut-like seed has ripened, the buckeye is smooth and round and really nice to feel when you are nervous or irritated.  The buckeye has a rich, brown color, similar to the wood of a cherry tree. The small, tan spot on it gives it its name.  These markings resemble an iris in an eyeball.  Rubbing it causes the eye of God to watch over you,  It also turns away the evil eye. Some also say it induces a magical charm for sexual potency, fertility, and gambling.

I’m not too sure about the gambling part.  I used to gamble a lot.  We threw dice on the school bus and matched quarters in the bathroom.  But I learned my lesson in sixth grade.  I realized that boys with older brothers knew tricks I didn’t.  There were ways of getting your money that were not quite fair.  After that, I stayed away from gambling, at least with money.

Later on, I realized I should quit gambling with my life, too.  I’d been going for the adrenaline rush of rock climbing.  And swinging on grape vines over deep chasms.  And walking barefoot in the city.  And going home with strange girls.  I cut all that out.  No sense in it.

All I gamble with now is my time.  I’m willing to devote a few minutes to a crazy idea someone has.  I might even risk a couple of hours on it.  Recently, a guy tried to convince me that I should buy this country store.  I was willing to risk wasting a little time by hearing him out.

Usually you can use situations like that to learn something.  So I did.  I explored what it would mean to own such a facility.  I called in some friends who were experts.  One got on Google Earth and looked at pictures of it.  He said, I can tell you when that was built: 1963.  I was amazed.  He said, I know because it’s concrete block.  There was a period in the late 50s and early 60s when people were throwing up buildings like that all over the country.

gas tank ESAHe also said they probably put in the underground gas storage at the same time.  You know it has to be corroded a bunch by now and probably leaking.  First thing you do is take some cores around the tank and see if you get any of those telltale volatile organic compounds.  EPA calls it a Phase II Environmental Site Assessment.  Any bank will require it before they give a loan.

So I called up the owner to see about doing such an assessment.  Before I could even bring it up they got all huffy about some jokes I’d made the last time I was in the store.  Really mad.  I apologized, but was a little surprised he’d treat a potential buyer that way.

Then I realized I’d been a little supercilious that day.  My grandmother once told me I was the most supercilious kid she had ever met.  What’s that mean, I asked.  Look it up, she said.  Country people don’t like it when they think you are lording it over them.  Or they think that you think you are smarter or better than they are.  It challenges their own sense of self-worth.  They’ll do anything to save their pride.  Making a profit on a business deal is totally worthless compared to maintaining your pride.

It’s a little like stories I hear of the inner city.   Where you look at somebody the wrong way and they shoot you.  Some people just get offended easily.  The owner fit in that category.

So it was a good lesson to me.  But it was also lucky.  I would be a fool to waste any time on an old concrete block building with a 70 year old underground gas tank.

Maybe I got lucky because of all the buckeyes I’ve kept in my pockets all these years.

Horse chestnut is the best of what we call buckeyes at Meadowcreek.  Technically, its not a buckeye or chestnut.  It’s even better.

Horse chestnuts, Ohio buckeyes, Red buckeyes are all species in the Aesculus genus.  I like to think this genus name came from Aeschylus, the  playwright of ancient Greece.

Of all the gods, Death only craves not gifts:
Nor sacrifice, nor yet drink-offering poured
Avails; no altars hath he, nor is soothed
By hymns of praise. From him alone of all
The powers of heaven Persuasion holds aloof.

Meadowcreek is on the Southern boundary of the Ohio buckeye range.  Ohio buckeyes just don’t like hot, humid climates.  The cool microclimate of our valley suits them.  We also have plenty of red buckeyes.  They are fun to spot in the woods in the spring.  They are mainly shrubs or small trees on our stony soils, but can get a little bigger.

Though the buckeye or horse chestnut is a relative of the chestnut and the nut is the same rich, mellow warm-brown as a chestnut, it is less readily edible, due to its high tannic acid content.  Some say its poisonous, but its not, it just tastes pretty bad.  You can leach out the tannic acids, if you like, just as you can leach them out of acorns to make flour. Native Americans would blanch buckeye nuts, extracting the tannic acids for use in making leather.

The buckeye was a term of endearment for the pioneers on the Ohio frontier.  The first tree felled by a settler west of the Ohio River was a buckeye according to an early explorer.  Today’s city of Marietta was founded on that site by Colonel Ebenezer Sproat.  The local Indians were impressed by his commanding presence.  In admiration they dubbed him “Hetuck”, meaning eye of the buck deer, or Big Buckeye.

The type of buckeye I like the best is also called horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum).  It is reputed to have all sorts of medicinal qualities.   Some women swear It works on varicose veins and cellulite.

Cellulite was once respected as an attractive symbol of wealth. It meant you could eat rich foods and didn’t have to physically labor.  In the USA these days, nearly all women have cellulite to one degree or another, and it’s generally considered a blight–a sign of a lazy, unhealthy lifestyle.

Women are more likely to get cellulite than men.  That’s because cellulite is caused when hormonal changes weaken the fibrous tissues surrounding fat cells and negatively affect the skin’s support structures. These effects are normally seen between the ages of 25-35, when women’s estrogen levels naturally decline. This causes a loss of blood vessel receptors in the thigh and hip regions, and less circulation means less nutrition to the area, which blunts collagen production (resulting in weaker skin and connective tissues).  There is also supposed to be a point in the menstrual cycles when women’s bodies release an enzyme that breaks down collagen.

Women also get cellulite more because women’s fat cells are distributed in vertical columns, which are more prone to bulging, whereas men’s are arranged in a denser, net-like pattern that is resistant to pitting.

You can buy pills which are composed of horse chestnut extract.  You can also purify the extract to the active ingredient if you have a good lab.  Most of the medicinal properties of horse chestnut are due to the active ingredient called aesculin, escin, aescin or esculin.Aesculin.svg  It’s a coumarin glucoside and is also found in dandelion coffee.

Because it is a coumarin derivative, it increases bleeding time and is responsible for the interference of horse chestnut extract with drugs used in anticoagulation therapy.

Since horse chestnut extract has anticoagulant properties, you might bruise more easily when you take it.  Some say this effect is compounded when taken in conjunction with other herbs such as garlic, gingko, and ginseng.

Whether you want them for luck or medicine, you’d better get out and get them soon.  The squirrels are already breaking open those thorny capsules and running off with the buckeyes.