Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, genealogy and family history, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats.

© 2006-2023 All rights reserved

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

Amanda Ruble Mystery

 The things you learn when you dig a little deeper. . . .

While poking around in Ruble genealogy—specifically the children of my great-great grandfather James A. Ruble (1812-1894) and his wife Lavesta—sometimes spelled Levesta—Caldwell (1827-1867) who lived in Craig County, Virginia— I noticed that three siblings of my great-grandfather, George "William" Ruble (1861-1935) did not fare well. 

Death reports told me his sister, Nancy Melvina (18 May 1858-25 July 1859) died of either "brain fever" or "dropsy of brain," depending on which death register you look at. She had been ill for seven days. William was probably the next born after her death. His older brother Henry R. (1854-1876), a farmer who hadn't been married very long, died of "fever" when William was 15. William, of course, never knew his older sister, but he would have grown up with Henry. William must have been about eight years old when his mother died— his father remarried in March 1869—and still a teenager when Henry died. I wonder how he coped with these sad situations.

But the saddest situation might be what became of his oldest sister Amanda (1847-1908). She had married Oscar Nyes Via in 1877, and they'd had four daughters—Emma Susan (b. 1877), Ella Della (b.1879), Annie E. (b. 1882), and Edith Frances (b. 1887). Oscar (who was a few  years younger than Amanda) died in 1893 when he was only 38, so Amanda—in her forties—was left to raise four young girls alone. She didn't remarry. How did she manage? It's a mystery. All her daughters grew up and got married, though. They were 31, 29, 26, and 21 when Amanda died in 1908. Surely they were able to look after her in her last years. But apparently they didn't.

Since November 1906, Amanda had been a patient at Western State Hospital in Staunton Virginia where she suffered from "senile dementia." Her death two years later was reported to be caused by "inanition," so she apparently starved to death. Was she refusing to eat? Did no one check to make sure she had food? Or did she have a medical condition that caused her to waste away? 

Amanda C. Ruble Via is buried in plot 5#48 in the Western State Hospital Cemetery in Staunton, Virginia. Here are some photos of the graveyard from the Western State Hospital Cemetery website:

How did Amanda come to be at Western State Hospital? Why did her daughters not provide a proper burial for her in the Ruble cemetery? I guess these mysteries won't be solved.

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Thursday, April 04, 2024

April 2, 2024

Spring has officially sprung. On April 2nd, I golf-carted around my lawn and took pictures of what was blooming. Looking down my driveway, I could see redbuds in full bloom as well as a greened-up willow oak. 

A closer look at the redbud shows that the crape myrtles along the road have not yet budded.

Another redbud is near the bottom driveway. The maples and the poplar tree are greening up too.

The wisteria on top of the pergola should bloom in another few weeks.

Lilacs are in bloom.

This dogwood is loaded with blooms.

Money plant and orange tulips provide a nice contrast for each other.

I used to have lots of azaleas, but many have died out through the years. This one near the deck is huge and always has lots of blooms.

This one, growing under a pin oak, is still hanging on.

Past the small azalea are redbuds.

The redbuds are doing very well this spring. Here's a close-up of some branches.

Money plant is blooming all over the place. Here it shares space with a tulip.

And here it blooms amid the irises.

Money plant always does well here.

The spirea is just starting to bloom. In a week or two it will be covered in white blossoms.

Even the holly is blooming and full of honeybees. There should be lots of berries by Christmas.

But spring will be long gone by Christmas.

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Monday, February 26, 2024

Shop on the Corner: A Review

I've read all of Lin Stepp's Mountain Home Books and have really enjoyed them: Happy Valley, Downsizing, Eight at the Lake, and Seeking Ayita. But Shop on the Corner —coming out in mid-March but now available for pre-order from Amazon—is my favorite one yet! Check out the cover:

Set in the small town of Waynesville NCShop on the Corner is about small town life, starting over, the importance of family and faith, and love. One of the things I especially like about Stepp's books is that she provides a map of the town to help the reader see what is where. Shop on the Corner, of course, has a map. 

While some of Stepp's novels feature a main character who finds her way back to her home or hometown, Shop on the Corner features a young woman—Laura O'Dell—who leaves her  hometown and relocates in another small town. The back cover blurb tells you why—and it also foreshadows what will happen: 

Thanks to prodding from her friend Lillian and thanks to the Internet, Laura soon connects with a North Carolina realtor who just happens to have a building for sale—a building that was formerly used as an upholstery shop—and, like Laura's current building, happens to be located on a corner. Without telling Georgina that she's leaving or even where she's going, Laura moves to Waynesville and sets up shop. Laura and Mitchell, of course, become involved with each other. He helps her find experienced employees to assist her in the shop, shows her around the town, introduces her to his family, and—well, you can figure where this going to lead. Unfortunately, there are a few complications, but the story—like the other Mountain Home books—ends happily.

Laura and Mitchell are likeable and believable characters. So is the setting—which is a real town in North Carolina. The plot has some interesting twists to keep you guessing. While there are a few unsavory characters, Shop on the Corner is still an upbeat, positive read.

Usually my cats help with my reviews. Otis, how about you? What did you think about the book?

Otis: I'm sun-bathing, so I didn't get a chance to read it
I looked at the cover and liked it. Isn't that enough?

No, Otis. It isn't. But I liked the cover, too. Claudine, what about you?

Claudine: I'm too busy doing yoga to read.
And I heard the two cats in this book only sit on the couch. 
I want those cats to  play a big part!

Fine. I'll ask your brother. Orville, did you read the book?

Orville: I'm doing yoga too, and if I move, I'll kick Jim-Bob.
If I wake him up, he'll be real mad.  So I can't read now.
Ask somebody else.

OK. I'll do that. There are plenty of other cats on this bed. Hmm. Tanner and Grover are sleeping, but Rufus is awake. Rufus, how about you? What did you The Shop on the Corner?

Rufus: Well, I liked it, My brother Grover did too.
Grover especially liked the border collie because
Grover is black and white like border collies. 
That's why Tanner liked it too. Tanner is old enough
to remember when a nice border collie lived here.

I'm glad you liked the book, Rufus. And you too, Grover and Tanner.

Rufus: I recommend this book. I live in a small town
 and I had to relocate a few years ago, so I could identify.

Thank you, Rufus. I'm glad you could relate.

Rufus: Well, I'm related to three other cats in this house.

Grover: I'm related to Rufus and Orville and Claudine!
I'm glad I'm not related to Jim-Bob. He's kind of grouchy.

Thanks cats, for your help. I'm glad you enjoyed the book, and I think most people will like it too.

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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

SOTK 2024

Tanner’s State of the Kitties Report for 2024



I haven’t done any state of the kitties reports for a while, so I guess I’m about due. All of us cats are getting older. At eleven, I’m pretty much long in the tooth. Actually, I do have a long tooth. It is my upper right fang. See:



 Chloe will vouch that I have a long fang:


One of my favorite things is taking a nap with the some of the other cats. Mommy’s bed is our favorite napping place. Our favorite time to nap in winter is the late afternoon when the setting sun comes through the window and warms up the pillows, but some of us nap any time we get a chance. In the picture below, I have the coveted pillow spot and I am waiting for the sun.


In this picture, Rufus has the sunny spot. I think he is getting solar recharged.


I don't nap all the time. Sometimes I work. Jim-Bob and I still go out to do cat-work every day that the weather is good. Sometimes we work together and sometimes we work separate. Here we are on rat patrol in the back yard.


We like to work in other places too, but sometimes we have distractions. Since late spring, Mountain Valley Pipeline construction resumed. It is now mostly—but not quite—finished. Noise and traffic from the MVP—including incessant beeping some days from the multitude of heavy earth-moving equipment—has been within a thousand feet of us for months and puts us well within the blast zone if the 42-inch pipe blows up when it’s turned on. It has disturbed a lot of Jim-Bob’s and my cat-work that we like to do in what used to be the horse pasture.


I sometimes work at night in the garage. Something that disturbed my night cat-work is that Mommy had new garage doors installed last summer. The old ones were falling apart, had holes in the bottom, and the door openers sometimes didn’t work. I miss those old doors because there was a hole in the bottom of one corner where a rat could get in, and sometimes I’d get the rat. I miss being able to do that.


I guess the biggest news this past year is that Cedrick, one of the full-time outdoor kitties, vanished mysteriously in mid-October. Skippy, the old ex-tomcat, who is probably Otis and Charotte's daddy, raised Cedrick as his kitty.



Now, I have never much liked Cedrick, so it didn’t matter much to me that he was gone, but Mommy was upset. I don’t think Skippy was very happy either.


After a few weeks, Mommy figured a coyote had got Cedrick and she said we would never see him again. Then, one afternoon in early December, Daddy came up from the shop and said he saw a black cat down there. Mommy got in the golf-cart and drove to the shop. It was Cedrick! She brought him back to the garage and fed him, and he ate and ate. He was real thin for a while, but he has gained back all his weight now. He never told any of us where he had been or why he left. I guess I’m glad Cedrick is back because Mommy and Skippy like him, but I still do not much like him and probably never will. Cedrick walks around like he owns the place.



Last spring we had a big turtle pass through our yard. It was a snapping turtle that travels from the pond across the road to another pond across another road. Momy and Daddy decided they'd help him pass through a little quicker before he snapped one of us. Daddy shoveled him into a big can and Mommy gave him a ride in the golf-cart to a place a lot closer to where the turtle was headed. Then Daddy dumped him out and the big turtle went on his way.  



Well, that is about all the news I can think of. It is past time for my nap and all the good places have been taken.

~ ~ ~

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Saturday, November 18, 2023

The Agnes Forbes Mystery

 As I continue to work on my genealogy, I've encountered a few family mysteries, and I've even solved a few of them. For instance, I found info about John Reid Martin's third wife and my 3rd-great grandmother, Sarah Elizabeth Webb. And I finally solved the mystery of what happened to Matthew Harvey Nace.  But many mysteries still remain— including a mystery in my Forbes line.

My Forbes ancestors have been in eastern Franklin County since the late 1700s.

According to the settlers' map (above), John Forbes lived on Little Bull Run Creek. His land would now be under Smith Mountain Lake (probably in the cove at the top of the picture below):


John Forbes was apparently a son of Edmund Robert Forbes of New Kent, Virginia. In the  The Vestry Book and Register of St. Peter's Parish, 1684-1786, John is listed as born Jan. 25, 1760. His brother Thomas was listed for Jan. 28, 1758.

As a descendent of two of John Forbes' children—Peter B. Forbes was my 3rd great grandfather and Agnes Forbes was my 4th great grandmother, I wondered if I could find any info about Agnes Forbes (1786-1860), the mother of my 3rd great-grandmother, Catherine "Kitty" Forbes

I was particulary curious about who the father of "Kitty" Forbes might be. The Internet—especially Ancestry and FindaGrave—was full of incorrect information, such as this one which gives Kitty's mother's maiden name as Bernard (it wasn't—Agnes was the daughter of John Forbes and Sally R. Bernard Forbes) and her husband as John Forbes (he wasn't; John Forbes was her father!) whom she married in 1806 (John Forbes' wife Sally was still alive and eventually outlived John).

 I posted a query on Facebook's Franklin County Genealogy page. Here's part of it:

I am seeking information about the parents of Catherine “Kitty” Forbes (1810-1850), the wife of Anselm Wright (abt. 1805-1853). My great-grandmother is Julia Franklin Forbes Brown (1859-1887), daughter of Mary Wright (daughter of Kitty Forbes) and Greenbury Forbes (son of Peter B. Forbes who was son of John Forbes).

In numerous trees on Ancestry, Catherine “Kitty” Forbes is mentioned as the daughter of John Forbes (1760-1826) and his second wife Agnes/Agness (b. 1786) who is possibly the daughter of Peter Bernard and Agnes Key. Supposedly—according to info on Ancestry and Findagrave—John married Agnes Bernard in 1806 following the death of his first wife Sarah R. “Sally” Bernard (b. 1762). 

However, that can’t be right. As far as I can determine, John Forbes died in 1832—not 1826—and he only had one wife, “Sally” who outlived him and who was the mother of all his children.

John Forbes' will—dated 22 July 1832, and presented for probate and proved in court on 6 Aug 1832—names the following legatees: "My beloved wife Sally"; daughters "Agnes Forbes and her heirs forever," Sally Wray, Betsy Bradley, and Polly Lyon; grandson Philip Forbes; sons John R Forbes, Peter B. Forbes, Thomas J Forbes, and heirs of William Forbes." (Info from will #516 in Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1900; Will Books, Vol. 3-4, 1825-1840). This will doesn’t mention Catherine “Kitty” Forbes. Any info will be appreciated.

I received this answer from a Facebook member in California whose several books about early Franklin County settlers are in the Franklin County Historical Society:

Agness Forbes was the mother of Kitty (Forbes) Wright. The marriage bond of Anselm Wright and Kitty C. Forbes was dated on October 27, 1826, at Franklin County, Virginia, with John R. Forbes as surety:
"Sir Please to Grant Anselm Wright licence to marry my daughter Kitty C Forbes and oblige yours &c
Teste Agness Forbes
October the 26th 1826
Know all men by these Presents that we Anselm Wright & John R Forbes are held and firmly bound unto John Tyler Esquire Governor or chief magistrate of the Common Wealth of Virginia in the sum of one hundred and fifty Dollars, to which payment whereof well and truly to be made to the said Governor and his successors in Office for the use of the Common Wealth We bind ourselves and each of us our and each of our heirs Exors and Administrators jointly and Severally firmly by these Presents sealed with our Seals and dated this 27 day of October 1826
The Condition of the above Obligation is such that whereas the said Anselm Wright hath this day obtained from the Clerk of the County Court of Franklin a licence for his intermarriage with Kitty C Forbes of said County Now if there shall be no lawful cause to obstruct the said marriage Then this Obligation to be void else to remain in full force & Virtue
Witness his
Ro. N Dickinson Anselm X Wrighhis mark
John R X Forbes mark"

The marriage bond doesn't mention Kitty's father—only her mother, "Agness." Usually a father provides surety, but Agnes's brother—John R. Forbes—did.

Marriage Bonds Of Franklin County, Virginia, 1786-1858, by Marshall Wingfield, listed the marriage bond John R. Forbes, the surety listed above, and Lydia Wright, daughter of John and Mary Wright, on November 2, 1818, in Franklin County, VA. John and Mary Wright were the grandparents of Anslem Wright. So John R. Forbes' acted as surety as much by reason of his marital connection to Anslem Wright as to his common surname with Kitty Forbes.

John Forbes' will, proved in court on 6 Aug 1832, names all his children—including Agnes—and makes it clear that Sally was  his only wife. (p. 287 in online version, will # 516 in Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1900; Will Books, Vol. 3-4, 1825-1840) Here is a transcription (the original was lacking in punctuation):

In the name of god amen I John Forbes in the county of Franklin in the state of Virginia Being weak in body but of perfect mind and memory and calling to mind the mortality of my Body do make and ordain this my last will and testament. First it is my wish for all my Just Debts to be paid. Secondly: I give to my beloved wife Sally Forbes the lot of land I now live on containing by Survey eight and a quarter acres which I Deeded to my son John R. Forbes Also my other tract or parcel  of land Adjoining the above mentioned Land Beginning in a corner elm on the tract land branch thence with the branch as it meanders to William Pasleys line thence  with his line to William Booths corner white oak thence with William Booth line  to corner black Jack thence with  James Wray Juns [Jr.] line to his Spring branch thence  down the [Same?] until it intersects with Thomas J. Forbes line thence with the same to a corner Post Oak on the lot line which I now live  also all my Personal Estate all to be at her discretion during her natural life and at her death both the above mentioned lots or parcels of land I leave to my daughter Agnes Forbes to her and her heirs forever. Also I leave to my beloved wife Sally Forbes my negro woman Linda and her increase and all the personal property that my wife leaves at her Death to my Daughters Sally Wray Betsy Bradley and Polly Lyon all to be Equally Divided amongst them three with the exception of a short gun that I give to my Grandson Philip Forbes. I also give to my Son John R. Forbes the land on which he now lives as his full legacy in my Estate.  I also give to my son Peter B. Forbes the land on which he now lives made to him by a Deed of Gift as his full part of my Estate. I also give to my son Thomas Forbes the tract or parcel of land that he now lives on made to him by a Deed of Gift  as his full part of my Estate. I also give to the heirs of my son William Forbes four Dollars in cash together with the money that I paid for William Forbes their father while he survived the same being their full part of my Estate. And now I  constitute and appoint my beloved wife Sally Forbes and John R. Forbes to execute this my last Will and Testament. In testimony whereof I have unto set my hand and seal this 22nd day of July one thousand eight hundred and Thirty two.

 Signed and sealed in the presence of us John Pasley, Solomon Pasley, Thomas J (X his mark) Mitchell

John's wife Sally apparently died before the 1850 census and—per his will—Agnes (1786-1860) inherited John's land. In that census, Agnes is now head of the household and her son Otey is farming the land.

In the 1850 Federal Census Non-Population Schedule for Virgina-Agriculture-1850-Franklin, Agnes is listed as owning 140 acres (120 cultivated and 20 uncultivated).

On December 13, 1855, at Franklin County, VA, D.B. 24/226, Agnes Forbes gifted land to her son Otey T. Forbes (1813-1901).

In the 1860 census, 73-year-old Agnes is a member of Otey’s household. They lived next to Greenbury Forbes (1827-1912), son of Agnes's brother Peter B. Forbes (1800-1883). Greenbury Forbes married Mary Wright (abt. 1833-1865), daughter of Catherine "Kitty" Forbes Wright (1810-1850) and granddaughter of Agnes Forbes.

From evidence, it's clear that John Forbes was the fathernot the husband—of Agnes Forbes and was grandfather—not the father—of Agnes's three children.

Some facts to correct the errors that are rampant on the internet:
  • John Forbes, of Franklin County, Virginia, did not die in 1826; he died in 1832—as proved by his will probated on 6 August 1832.
  • Sally R. Bernard was John's only wife. Sally did not die in 1806. She died sometime after 1832 but before the 1850 census. Thus, John did not remarry in 1806.
  • Agnes Forbes —the daughter, not wife—of John Forbes never married but had three children: Catherine "Kitty" Forbes (1810-1850), Otey Forbes (1813-1900), and Philip Forbes (1818-1901). Since she was unmarried but had a family and no home of her own, her father John provided in his will that—after his wife Sally's death—"both the above mentioned lots or parcels of land I leave to my daughter Agnes Forbes to her and her heirs forever."
  • John Forbes' will, dated 22 July 1832,  names the following legatees (p. 287 in online version, will # 516 in Virginia, U.S., Wills and Probate Records, 1652-1900; Will Books, Vol. 3-4, 1825-1840):  "My beloved wife Sally;" Daughter Agnes Forbes and her heirs forever;  Daughters Sally Wray, Betsy Bradley, and Polly Lyon; Grandson Philip Forbes; Son John R Forbes; Son Peter B. Forbes; Son Thomas J Forbes; and Heirs of my son William Forbes. 

It is commendable that John Forbes saw fit to provide for his daughter Agnes and her three illegitimate offspring. I was unable to find any clue as to who might be the father (fathers?) of Agnes's children or why Agnes never married. Might the father have been married to someone else and was thus unable to marry her? Or was there another reason?

It remains a mystery.


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Wednesday, November 08, 2023

Smith Farm History

Smith Farm has been in my family for over a hundred years and through three generations. 

On that farm, my grandparents Joe and his wife Sallie raised their family—Russell, Myrtle, Belva, Virgie, and foster daughter Laura—and grew old together until Joe died in October 1959. Then my daddy bought the farm at auction. Since 1969, it's been mine. The cabin was made of logs, but Joe had a sawmill and made the boards that covered the logs. Here is how the cabin looked in 1936:

The original part—on the left—was where William (1833-1907) and Gillie Ann Bernard (1839-1897) once lived and raised their family. The Bernards are buried up on the hill. To the left of the back of  the cabin was where Gillie Ann's kitchen once was and where her lilac bush grew. The right side of the cabin was added later and a dog-trot built between the two sections

In 1967,  the cabin still looked the way it did in 1936.

My great-grandfather, Will Brown, bought the farm from William Bernard's son for $440 in 1905. The deed below references points such as "three persimmon trees in Jno. R Robertson's line," "a dead red oak, thence with Dudley's line," "to a chestnut, a corner of Creed Bernard's lot," etc. The trees, like the people whose land was next to the farm, are long gone.

In 1906, Will Brown financed the farm for his son-in-law Joe Smith. Joe paid him back over a period of years and kept the receipts for payments he'd made.  


Joe also kept a record:

. . .  and finally the debt was paid.

The farm, the cabin, and the outbuildings have changed a lot through the decades. The only remains of Gillie Ann's kitchen—which my Aunt Belva once told me "fell in" when she and her sister were children—are some rocks, but you have to look close to see them. The lilac bush has died out; I'm glad I got a slip from it years ago.


Several out-buildings are now long gone. This open space in back is where the hen-house, smoke house, and a shed for the buggy used to be:

In front, three other buildings stood—one was a corn-crib, another a wheat house, and a third one was for storage. Now only one building still exists.

When Joe and Sallie celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary in 1954, they stood in front of that remaining building, but you can see another building to the right:

This picture of their oldest daughter Myrtle, taken when she was 16, shows two and part of a third out-building:

Joe never had a big barn. This building, beside the entry road, was where hay was stored.

Above: Front view (facing the cabin): Below: side view 

On the back side of this barn were once two stalls, now long gone and only a part of the roof remains. The last two animals to occupy those stalls were Kate the horse and Gen the mule.  I can barely remember them. Before them were other horses—I think Maude might have been the one before Gen, but she was before my time—and before the horses were a team of oxen. My daddy once told me their names were Hiram and Roger (Rajah?). I remember once seeing the remains of their ox-yoke.

Not far from where the stalls once were, two iron wheels and part of an old wagon's frame remain.

Just past the barn, the farm road leads to a now-paved state road that the Smiths called "the racetrack" because boys used to race their horses and buggies there. I can remember when it was a red clay road that turned to mud in rainy weather. On the deed, it's called  "racepaths known as the Union Hall and Bethel Church road."

Tucked in the woods near the farm road is an old tobacco barn. Tobacco was the money crop in Franklin County back in the day.

The house is showing its age. The top of the original stone chimney was replaced with brick years before my time. 

When Gillie died, William Bernard cut the little window to the left of the chimney so he could keep an eye on her grave up on the hill beyond the pasture while he sat by the fire.

William joined Gillie on the hill in 1907. A few decades later, two of Joe and Sallie's grandchildren—Myrtle's son Clyde and Russell's son Robert—both of whom died as infants, joined them. Joe and Sallie's son, William Everett Smith who was born and died in 1911, is supposed to be buried near the Bernards, but there's no trace of his grave.

For over a half century,  Gillie's grave has been hidden by the woods that took over the pasture, and—long after William joined her on the hill—the brick on the chimney beside the window is falling in. 

High on this chimney are these initials. A date—1852 or 1853, I forget which—used to be visible to the right.

The back of the cabin is also falling in. The porch and its roof collapsed and fell over a decade ago.

These notches show where the back porch roof once was attached.

The spring, where water was fetched a couple of times a day, was down this hill and and across a creek. The Smiths' cow also lived down here, but was fenced out of the spring and spring box. A branch ran from the spring and eventually connected to the creek.

This hillside between cabin and spring was once the site of the Smiths' garden.

The creek—and then the spring and its branch—are the other side of the trees at the bottom.

Beside the farm road that leads to the cabin is an ancient walnut tree. It was huge  when I was a kid 75 years ago.

Every year, it looks like it's dying . . .

. . .  but by late spring, after the surrounding trees have leafed out, it starts to sprout leaves. Every year—so far—it still bears walnuts.

At least a few things remain.


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