On the homestead east of Corona, New Mexico, we didn’t have oak trees, certainly nothing to compare with the Valley Oaks in the Gridley area.  The shin oak we had was in large clusters that measured from a few feet across to perhaps a quarter of an acre.  I have heard that it was called shin oak because of its height, however, the shin oak I recall was much higher than shin high.  In fact, as a child, I found that it reached over my head.  A six foot man standing in the center of a growth of shin oak would have been able to see over the top of it quite well.

On the homestead east of Corona, New Mexico, we didn’t have oak trees, certainly nothing to compare with the Valley Oaks in the Gridley area.  The shin oak we had was in large clusters that measured from a few feet across to perhaps a quarter of an acre.  I have heard that it was called shin oak because of its height, however, the shin oak I recall was much higher than shin high.  In fact, as a child, I found that it reached over my head.  A six foot man standing in the center of a growth of shin oak would have been able to see over the top of it quite well.


North of the house there was a large growth of shin oak, and in about the center of this cluster was an open area of an ideal size to be a room for me.  This I considered my “secret land”.  So far as I know, no one else ever crawled back to it.  Why I needed this secret place, I cannot say. 


The stems or trunks of these miniature oaks grew very close together, allowing little space for a child to crawl through.  Perhaps it gave me a certain sense of power since I was a “middle child” with little importance in the family structure.  Fortunately, my sister and I were great buddies, and I was a good follower and she a good leader.  She knew how to lead into a lot of exciting adventures.


In the spring the shin oak was one of the first pieces of vegetation to put forth leaf buds that were first pinkish in color before it lost its tenderness and became tough oak leaves.  The cows that were tired of dry grass sometimes discovered these tender shoots.  A few mouthfuls along with the grass and weeds could possibly have been harmless, but if an animal made a meal out of the tender pink leaves, they could be lethal.  We lost one fine Jersey heifer that way, and so when spring came, Lorene and I were given the job of watching the cows in the pasture and herding them away from the shin oak.


On the homestead we had no hills-just long slopes down to the draw.  To entertain ourselves, we could run down those slopes, jumping the prickley pears and small clumps of vegetation on our way down.  Lorene, who had longer legs than I, even managed to sail over some of the smaller clusters of shin oaks.


We had one lone pine tree at the east edge of the lower field.  Most of our timber was pinon and cedar.  With pine needles we sometimes pinned the oak leaves together to make little baskets.  These baskets were ideal for carrying the ripe fruit of the prickley pear after we had carefully rubbed the tiny spines from it in the grass or sand.  Many years later, when I was the wife of an American soldier living in a government apartment in Germany, Steve’s first sergeant’s wife and I were sitting on the side of a hill above the apartment complexes when I discovered wild blue berries.  Having no other means for transporting enough of the berries back to our apartment to make a blueberry cobbler, I recalled the baskets my sister and I had made from shin oak leaves, and there on a German hillside, I pinned oak leaves together and made a basket to fill with the berries.


The ranchers have killed out the shin oak in New Mexico to make more space for grass.  I don’t suppose this is any great loss to the world, but where would a little girl find a “secret land” to hid away in if she felt the need?