By Jerry Zezima
The Stamford Advocate
Everyone knows the story of Johnny Appleseed, who introduced apples in the Midwest by saying, “Granny Smith, meet McIntosh. Mac has invented a newfangled device called a computer. You can get a year’s worth of free lessons if you buy one now.” Granny rebooted Mac out the door and had Johnny arrested for littering after he dropped appleseeds all over her yard.
But very few people know the story of Jerry Appleseed, who recently dropped a bunch of Granny Smiths and McIntoshes all over an orchard when his bag broke while he and his wife, Sue, were apple picking.
I, of course, am that seedy character, and I am a lot like Johnny because, as the saying goes, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
That’s the lesson I learned when Sue and I drove out to Lewin Farms in Wading River, N.Y., to partake in an autumn ritual that did not, unfortunately, involve staying home to watch football.
The first thing we discovered was that approximately half a million people had the same idea. Sure as God made little green apples, we found ourselves competing with packs of pome-picking persons who either wanted to eat so many apples that they turned green or hoped to turn their bounties into apple pies, apple crisps, apple tarts, apple candies, applesauce, applejack, apple juice or apple cider. Not among them was R.W. Apple, the legendary New York Times reporter who is, at the present time, dead.
When Sue and I got to the entrance, we saw a sign that read: “Baskets $5, bags 5 cents.” I may be a basket case, but I’m also really cheap. “Let’s bag it,” I said.
Sue grabbed three bags, the flimsy plastic kind you get at the supermarket, and together we headed into the orchard, where I got a lesson in apple picking from a 6-year-old boy named Adam, who brought his parents, Paul and Samantha, because he couldn’t possibly carry all those apples by himself.
“First you twist them,” Adam said authoritatively. “Then you look at them.”
“I’ve been doing it the opposite way,” I confessed. “No wonder I’m not a good apple picker.”
Adam smiled. So did Paul, who sprang for a basket, which was full of fruit. “I’d rather be watching football,” Paul said as he lugged the heavy load from tree to tree.
“I’ll never hear the end of this,” Samantha said.
“Are you a football fan?” I asked Adam.
“No,” he said as he put another apple in the basket. “I like baseball.”
A few minutes later, I felt something fall on my foot. Then I heard something hit the ground. Then something else. I looked down. Apples were cascading from my bag, which had broken because I had overloaded it. I put them back in the bag and carried the whole kit and caboodle in my arms.
“You should have brought a wagon,” said a guy named Tony, who was walking with his family. Tony’s son, A.J., was pulling a wagon belonging to his 2-year-old daughter, Norah. The wagon contained three baskets full of apples.
I asked Norah, who was on her first apple-picking adventure, if she was having a good time. The little girl didn’t answer.
“She’s coming off a cold,” said her mom, Angel.
“An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” I advised.
When Sue and I were finished, we brought our three bags to a woman who weighed them. “That’ll be $34,” she said. I only had a 20. “Look at the sign behind you,” the woman said. The sign read: “What you pick, you buy.” The apples were priced at a buck a pound. The woman took back my bag and said, “Two bags, $20. But please watch out next time.”
There won’t be one because next year, I’m staying home to watch football. How do you like them apples?
Copyright 2010 by Jerry Zezima