Bullets and Black Walnut

Walnut With BulletsLast winter I was visiting a friend in Mississippi near Vicksburg. The farm at which I was staying is located on a road that leads directly to that city’s famous battlefield. In fact, the Confederate army marched down that very road to get to the fight. While I was talking to my host about the battle of Vicksburg and the national park that is located at the battlefield, he mentioned a tree. Apparently, this tree had the unlucky fate of being located directly between significant numbers of soldiers of the two opposing armies. When the bullets started to fly, and then continued flying for a long, long time — the tree was one of the early casualties of the battle. According to my host, so many bullets hit the tree that it eventually fell over from the weight of the lead embedded in its wood fibers.

Not so long ago, I was reminded of that story as I built a table that would be featured in the print magazine. (Woodworker’s Journal, October, 2012 … Walnut Game Table) As I was preparing the stock for the table, I noticed a couple of voids in the wood. Walnut Game TableThinking it was insect damage, I continued to plane the stock to thickness. Then I noticed that the bug holes were shiny.

Turning off the machine, I took a close look and found that the wood was full of bullet holes … and bullets. There were too many slugs to be found in these chunks of wood to be a random shot … my guess is that someone had hung a target up on a black walnut tree. (Unless, perhaps, it was in some less well-known battle!) Now, I’ve found bullets in boards before. It is not too uncommon and, if you surface a lot of wood, you’ll run into some sooner or later. But I have never before found so many bullets in such a small stash of wood. It was an odd but enjoyable event in my shop … and one that I thought you might get a kick out of.

Rob Johnstone

Editor in Chief


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