A Capitol Scamper
Updated: Nov 27
By Rogene "Jeannie" McPherson
I have a confession to make. I stole something from the State of Kansas. Even worse it was on state property at the Kansas Capitol grounds in Topeka.
Actually, the theft was not really about stealing from Kansas, but more so from the squirrels.
On the northeast corner of the capitol grounds is one of the largest burr oak trees I have ever seen. The burr oaks are known for their huge acorns. In this scenario, acorns covered every square inch of space around the perimeter of the tree more than 20 feet in all directions. Too bad acorns aren’t a cash crop, but then I likely could be prosecuted.
As the Silver-Haired Legislator from Kansas, I attended a few sessions of the fall conference at the Capitol. The purpose is to discuss the initiatives, usually around five, chosen earlier in the year and then vote on whether to proceed getting legislative approval for the agenda items. We are also given an opportunity to meet with our representative and senators.
I parked off-site and walked onto the sidewalk next to where the burr oak was planted. The number of mature acorns was an overwhelming hazard, like walking on marbles. Each step required my visual attention. Thus, it became a game of stepping and breaking apart the acorns to avoid taking a rolling fall. To a few strangers sitting on park benches, it likely looked Iike I was dancing into the building.
By the time I left for the day, I had made my decision to pick up some of the acorns with the purpose of propagating them for my own yard. After collecting two handfuls on my way to my car, I hoped no one saw the nut-case balancing something in her folded hands.
When back in Linn County, I sought the advice of a gardening friend as to the care of the acorns to ensure a high germination success rate. This individual suggested storing them in the refrigerator over winter and planting in the spring.
Sometime in March, I pushed seven acorns about 2 inches down into seven small pots containing potting soil. In retrospect, I likely could have and should have used Kansas dirt. That’s what the squirrels would do.
I kept the soil moist and about six weeks later I noticed one of the trees coming up. As I write this, the tree is now about 9 inches tall with the very distinctive burr oak leaves. One other tree came up, but it is not a burr oak. Go figure. My success rate of one out of seven isn’t great, but I’m excited to brag about the burr oak sapling originating from the Kansas Capitol grounds.
Very soon I’ll be at the Capitol for the annual legislative conference for Silver Haired Legislators. I’ll help myself to a few more acorns. If caught, I’ll use the defense of doing research for the State of Kansas.
I love the burr oak trees and wish they were the state tree of Kansas, but it’s the easy-to-grow cottonwood, and that's probably why it is the state tree. My cottonwood was planted by the birds and seems to be one of the cotton-less ones, thank goodness.
Whether we are talking about trees or human beings, I am reminded of the saying, “Bloom where you are planted,” meaning to grow and flourish despite the circumstances. Instead of feeling guilty about picking up a few acorns, I look forward to improving the environment one tree at a time.
Rogene “Jeanne” McPherson, from the Centerville area, is a regular contributor to the Linn County Journal. She recently published a book about her experiences entitled Posts from the Country, Adventures in Rural Living. It is available online in both virtual and printed editions. Copies are on the shelves at all Linn County libraries.