It was a crisp, cool morning on I-95 heading north. There were high expectations for this annual outing with my uncle on a Saturday in mid-October, an outing that included quality time, a scarf, some baskets, fresh country air and apples. Being 11, I was excited to go to the apple orchard again to see how many great apples I could find.
There are so many different types of apples, in so many different types of conditions. I had to prep my young mind for what I would be looking for. Of course, I had my uncle there to show me whether I was making the right choices, so I was not worried. All I could keep thinking was, “It is going to be a great day of apple-picking, and maybe I’ll have time to help the farmer make a batch of apple cider.”
So finally, after an hour and a half or so of traveling, we reached the destination. I stepped out of the car to a brisk whiff of non-city air and a huge red barn surrounded by what seemed like an endless amount of apple trees. It was something like looking into an ocean of amazing. Amazing like elephants playing instruments in Bali, or people doing back flips off of see-saws into Levis.
My uncle and I headed into the barn and were greeted by a man whom I will call Farmer R, because I don’t actually remember the guy’s name. Farmer R smelled as if Axe had an apple-scented body spray. He told us to grab some baskets and start walking through the orchard, or to go ahead and hop on one of the hayride taxis. For those who don’t know what a hayride taxi is, it is a way of transporting people who go apple-picking so they do not have to walk miles searching for those special apples.
I said I would rather walk first, and we got ready to head out. Farmer R told my uncle to have a good time but used interesting language when he bid me farewell. He said: “Good hunting out there young fella. Know you’re a vet, but take your time and get some of the quality out there.”
I just thought to myself: “He said hunting? For apples? Apple hunting? Weird.”
Well, I headed out on my “applehunting” adventure. It started out like any other excursion, extremely frantic and energetic. I was at every tree and every apple trying to find the best apples to put in my basket. I even made it a competition with my uncle to see who could get the most, and the best, apples.
I know you might think apple-picking is a piece of cake. It’s not. There are apples that look good but have rotten insides. Apples with one side looking immaculate but then you turn it around and see a worm having a dinner party. There are apples that you pick off the tree but are not fully ripe, or are too ripe.
In all, the difficulties were immense, but I managed. I was 11, which would make me a grown man in 14th-century France, I think. Anyway, my uncle and I decided to call it a day after a few hours, and we compared baskets. I had three; he had 30. Clearly I lost the competition, which meant I had to give him my Sega game genie.
Either way, I asked him why he had so many unbelievable apples and I could only find three. His answer, “You gotta know how to look.”