The Last Fruit From Our Old Farm

I went back to my family's farm for a last visit before its sale; I couldn't resist a walk around the old place. I had lived there only a little while. My younger sister and brothers were the ones fortunate to spend most of their growing-up years there. Still, of all the places I have lived, the farm first comes to mind when I think of ''home.''

High steps were required to get through the tall, wet grass out to the orchard. I walked almost to the heart of the apple tree stand and stopped to look up into the branches. That is where I used to search out the greenest of the crop. Those were the apples I climbed for, and they were the ones that tasted fresh and wild.

No green ones were left this time. They had all grown and matured and made it to my mother's applesauce. If things were the same as when I roamed the orchard, a few had probably hit the ground too hard during late summer winds and had been fed, bruised and sweet, to the patient cows that had watched them grow.

The sun was bright that autumn morning. It glared in my eyes for a moment when it made its way through some of the branches now less weighted with leaves. As I looked away, I glimpsed the glow of a yellow apple upon the ground. It was rounded, smooth, and had a blush of pink. One withered leaf still held to the stem. I reached out to that leaf, and it crumbled with a crunch.

I picked up the apple. It could barely fit in the palm of my hand. The tree had put lots of energy into this. It was cool from the night's grip of cold. As I took a firmer hold, my finger pressed through a soft spot hidden on the fruit's underside where it had struck the ground. Breaking the skin let the too-sweet smell of rot escape to the morning air. A shame the apple hadn't been perfect.

I turned the apple back to its glowing, golden side. Even though I knew its secret, I still could not resist having a last taste of fruit from the tree my father and I had planted, and that he had nurtured through so many years. The yellow flesh was firm and rich with flavor - its sweetness balanced by a bold, tart taste. With that bite, I could feel the cool dew on my lips that had rested on the apple as it lay in the field. Such robust sensations easily brought back memories of days gone by.

Holding the apple firmly, I gave it a toss over the fence into the pasture. Just three of the cows munching there looked up to see the treasure lying in their midst. I was glad to see Lucy made it there first. After all, her forebears watched the planting. She deserved the final fruit.

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