The Mountain Laurel
The Journal of Mountain Life

Visit us on FaceBookGenerations of Memories
from the
Heart of the Blue Ridge

Apple Picking and Fair Play

By Ellen Fielder © 1991

Issue: August, 1991

Apple Picking and Fair PlayEditor's Note: The following is an excerpt from the book, "An Apple A Day" by Ellen Fielder. It may be ordered from Route 1, Box 83-A 1, Glade Valley, NC 28627. The 153 page soft back book is $9.00.

It's Early Harvest apple eating time again. All my life this has been one of my favorite times of year.

There is an apple tree in Mama's front yard. I always make a stop there, before going inside. If I had one dollar for every one of those apples I have eaten in my life, Donald Trump wouldn't even be in the running.

When I was growing up we had five Early Harvest trees. Four were in the orchard and one in the back yard. All the trees were personalized.

The biggest one in the orchard was Roy's. Next was Clifford's. Then came Louise's slightly smaller tree. Roxie had the least tree in the orchard. The really dinky one in the front yard was Bobby's.

Today Roxie's tree is totally gone and the ones belonging to Roy, Clifford and Louise are showing signs of years of neglect.

Bobby's tree is standing proud, pruned and producing in the front yard. It's living proof that Mama and Daddy loved Bobby best.

Daddy didn't believe in wasting apples (or anything else). We were never allowed to eat a part of the apple and throw the remainder away. If we bit it, we ate it.

We cooked and canned only what fell to the ground of their own free will.

The apple trees were surrounded by a hay field. Daddy didn't allow us to play in the hay field and tramp down the grass.

He did allow us to make paths to all the apple trees. We never went out of these paths. Heaven only knows how many trips we made to the trees throughout the day.

During the day we ate the apples as quickly as they fell to the ground. The real treat came with the morning. During the night they would fall in large numbers and be waiting for us with the sunrise.

The chickens also knew the schedule. It was a contest daily to see who got to the orchard first, the chickens or the children. Usually the children were victorious.

Whoever gathered the apples operated under a strict code of honor. No apples were to be eaten during the gathering. When all the children were present the apples were emptied from the containers to be viewed by all.

The person who had gotten up in the middle of the night to beat the chickens had "first pick."

We took turns choosing until all the apples were divided. We could pig out and eat our entire inventory at once or space them during the day as we desired.

Looking back, it makes me warm inside to remember how honest we all were. It would have been a simple thing for the one gathering to have hidden a few of the best ones in the tall grass and retrieved them at will later on in the day. We didn't think of such a thing. We trusted each other because we could.

When I think back on my childhood, I never remember Mama or Daddy giving us lectures on being truthful and honest. I don't recall much being said about playing fair. Somehow we just knew. It was woven into the fiber of our lives.

When we played "hide and seek" we never peeped. We laid our head against a tree, closed out eyes and counted to ten as we were supposed to.

When we played "blind man's bluff' we always told the truth about whether or not the blindfold obscured our vision.

We knew, without knowing how we knew, that a game was no longer a game if we cheated.

I don't know how I would have felt if I had ever heard either of my parents tell a lie. My mind can't conceive such a thing.

I have known parents who lied or told their children to lie. Often it concerned making themselves younger when it involved saving a dollar on a meal or a ticket.

It always made me sick inside. When you teach a child that it's OK to lie to save a dollar, where do you draw the line?

I'm thankful to God I grew up in a family where being honest was as natural as gathering apples.

Speaking of gathering apples, I'm getting hungry. We all know "an apple a day keeps the doctor away." Maybe that's the reason I'm never sick. I'm on my way to the apple tree - right now!