My grandfather, whom I called Pappy, farmed tobacco in the red clay soil of Randolph County, North Carolina. He was an old-fashioned small farmer who plowed with a mule until the late 1950’s. In the winter, Pappy and Grandma spent evenings around the kitchen fireplace. After supper, Pappy walked to the closet and chose a Stayman apple from a split wood basket. I climbed in his lap while he opened his two-blade Case knife and peeled that red apple right in front of my eyes. I watched the peel unfold from the white flesh–Pappy prided himself on always cutting one long peel with no breaks. He cut slices for me, holding them out between the knife blade and his calloused thumb. I’ll never forget the sweet taste of that Stayman apple and the faint metallic edge of his sharp knife.
Hard Sweet Apples
Rose Hill Farm defined my eight year old universe. From the enormous hay loft in the big metal barn to the fescue covered hills, this Georgia horse farm inhabited all of me. I was in love with Larconi—he was an unusual creature, a creamy Connemara pony with a white mane and tail, blue eyes and a pink nose. He heard all my childhood fears and dreams. He was soft as a pillow and a gentle soul. Larconi had a sweet tooth. He rolled sugar cubes around his fat tongue and drank Co-cola straight from the bottle. Most of all he loved the hard cooking apples and pears from the fruit trees lining the long drive through the center of the farm. Each fall the herd of Connemaras leaned against the rail fence, straining to pull fruit from those trees. Larconi grabbed apples and crunched the hard fruit until sweet juice dripped from his chin. A few years ago I revisited Rose Hill. The riding ring seemed much too small to have held so many childhood dreams. And the rail fence still bowed toward the old fruit trees, pushed close to the branches by the ghosts of ponies long gone.
Suzanne M. Hogg
A Quiet Day in the Orchard
I measure my memory of 9/11 day in the height and breadth of apple trees. My first thought, “how strange that a small plane would crash into the World Trade Center,” became a silly wish as the news rolled out the facts of that day. I am a commercial nursery owner and often find more comfort from plants than from people. That day I packed my ’88 Dodge Ram with a shovel and pitchfork and headed to the orchard to spread mulch. I listened to the radio for a while then listened to wind in the young trees and Rock House Creek just down the hill. It was very still that beautiful fall day. We are on a busy aviation route here in southwest Virginia, but the sky was quiet and clear blue with not a single con-trail. I put Jimmy Buffet on the truck’s tape deck and mulched trees to Cheeseburger in Paradise. When the light changed to pink at the end of the day, I took a picture of the orchard and the healthy young trees standing tall in straight rows. Today those trees touch branches in those rows and spring blossoms cover the orchard like snowflakes. In March I climb on the thick healthy limbs to prune. And each September I enjoy the spicy apples.