On the last shift of the season I walked in the test orchard picking apples.
20 minutes of bliss.
Beginning with a tree the orchard’s namesake planted in the 1980s, I picked a few there then added Connell Red, Regent and Sheepnose to my bag — about six pounds.
Bob Darby’s Seedling did not make the cut when the orchard expanded. A lone tree sits at the head of the test grove — a reminder of the founder who collected saplings from friends and neighbors to graft to his own root stock as he increased the variety of apples to more than 120.
After cutting and tasting, the whole lot of fruit will be sauced in our kitchen.
And so it is with this and many of the jobs I’ve worked after my career in transportation. It comes down to a beautiful fall day, enjoying the last harvest of this season, and hoping there will be another year.
On my way out of the sales barn the current orchard owner was repairing an extension cord. We live in the same political precinct so local politics was our first topic. Soon we began talking about our customers – how the long, lazy, end of season weekend produced more than its share of long conversations about apples and what people plan to do with them.
I helped a couple from western Virginia near where my father came up find fruit for apple butter. He moved to Iowa to find work when what he described as “Obama’s war on coal” took away his job in the mines. They bought a bushel. We had three separate conversations about coal country, apples, apple butter and getting by. Making apple butter is a family tradition not to be interrupted by the move north.
There were a dozen conversations like this one, each with people of different backgrounds and expectations about apples and local culture. Some found apples in the orchard and those who didn’t bought them from the cooler. I savored each conversation as it happened.
I asked my boss to work next season and he said, “absolutely.”
As long as I breathe air and need paid work to sustain our lives, that’s the plan. Hopefully Bob Darby’s Seedling will survive another year.