The field was set: row on row of fruit-laden trees standing around, waiting to be ravaged. The call did not go unheeded, and thousands from across the land swarmed upon the apple orchard, taking all the produce in sight and leaving nothing but piles of fruit corpses in their wakes. The trees were bred especially to take this type of punishment without tears.
This year was unusual, in that bad weather and the blight had demonstrated the truest definition of decimation by knocking out one in every 10 apple trees. The survivors also were filtered as to who had edible product and who still had to recover from last year’s harvest. So, out of the entire orchard, only about 15 rows were pickable. The mass of humanity was concentrated there.
Even though the price per pound is adjusted to include the collateral damage of those apples eaten on site, do not be lulled into complacency – bailiffs patrol the rows and anyone seen taking a bite and tossing the remainder onto the ground will be beaten soundly with truncheons. Upon regaining consciousness, the offender then must collect all the fallen heroes at the bases of the trees at the end of the day and cart them to the pigs for dinner. So, before biting into that tempting fruit, ponder how best not to get caught.
To keep things interesting, every so often a crop duster flies overhead and shoots applesauce at the crowds; the regulars come prepared with jars and spoons and set up a picnic blanket.
When selecting apples, keep in mind for what use they are intended. Braeburn is good for baking and is not to be confused with Red Delicious, which is good for nothing. Golden Delicious, on the other hand, lives up to its name, but should not be confused with its evil twin, Granny Smith. Ida Red is not bad either, but also can be mixed up with Braeburn or just about any other red apple in sight. The only thing to Stayman Winesap’s credit is its name, in that it sounds like a character from a P.G. Wodehouse story. The row for each variety is marked by a sign, but since everything is thrown into one bag, it is all rather futile.
The carts to transport the apples also can be converted into a child carrier – just ignore the warning written on them. Hours of fun offset the occasional tumble-out and tears.
Occasionally, pickers encounter “Apple Jacks”, duals between rival pickers at each end of a row. No one ever knows what the argument is about, but each party arms themselves with the biggest apple they can find and lobs it at the other’s head. The one who does not pick up a mealy apple from the ground wins, so no one ever does.
Various squash such as walnut, spaghetti, and the common pumpkins and gourds also have set up shop at the orchard, alongside an unnecessary row of sunflowers that were planted there just to freak people out. The pumpkins are authentic imports to supplement the weak harvest; a few have “Made in Pennsylvania” still stamped on them. When selecting one from the patch, try to make sure it has not already been pre-kicked.
On the way to the checkout booths, be sure to be ensnared by more local foodstuff – the honey, jams, and hot dogs are just to die for. Getting one of each type of item should make a full meal. Everything is paid for in cash or check, so those who only brought credit cards will have to drive two miles to the nearest ATM as their pickings are held hostage until their return.
Once released from the orchard’s grasp, dump the cart anywhere and join the queue of automobiles now desperate to escape the labyrinth. Do not let them see you drive in the opposite direction of the line of cars stretched out to the horizon, since that is the faster route and once they find out, it will be ruined for everyone.
As the sun sets on the massacre, the apple trees dream of a life where the worst to tear their babies from their arms is a harsh breeze. We all have our fantasies.