The fall of 2001’s apple crop of over 90 old apple trees that filled our Dixon, NM property, was abundant. New Mexico’s fall inspires poetry. A ripening apple orchard inspires poetic anthologies. But who knew that it could defeat terrorism?
Each tree limb weighed heavy with MacIntosh, Virginia Blacks, Delicious, and other varieties that I never could identify. The Conservation Corp planted them during the Great Depression and property owners sold, subdivided and eventually neglected acre upon acre of aging apple trees. When the property was eventually titled to me, spouse and I gave these trees the love and water they so missed over the years. By September 2001, the orchard was back and ready to pick.
The reality, however, was, there was not time nor energy for us to pick and sell the apples, and most of them would likely fall and rot into the soil.
Matching my passion for the orchard was our local library–painfully underfunded, and possibly the tiny rural community’s most valuable resource.
I conjured up an idea: Pennies for Apples–An Embudo Library Apple-Picking Benefit Party. Open to the public, folks were invited to pick apples on the weekend of Saturday and Sunday, Sept 15 and 16. The local weather reporter loved the idea and help publicize the event.
But something went terribly wrong. On Tuesday morning, September 11, 2001, horror stuck America. I asked, “Should I cancel the fundraiser?” The resounding reply was, “No! If ever we needed to do something good, and enjoy our country’s harvest, we need a day in your orchard. Keep the event!”
I bought reels of red, white and blue ribbon and hung every single tree with curled strands of patriotism. An American flag and a red, white a blue sign below it, jutted out into our country dirt road and read “Pennies for Apples Here.”
Saturday morning sedans, trucks, and fancy sports cars streamed into our property like the ancient acequia when we opened the gates for irrigation. Parents, grandparents, and kids, brought buckets, boxes and blankets. Some brought jugs to capture fresh squeezed juice that I let them run through the old-fashioned cider press. We even had chili dogs for sale.
Some folks spread their blankets along the property’s edge where the Embudo River ran, and shared picnic lunches. It was a time of much-needed peace. It was a time of much-needed connection with the earth, the water, and the trees.
As the sun found its way to late Sunday afternoon, one by one, every single person who picked apples that weekend expressed their gratitude. Some were very wealthy and left large denominations in the buckets; other were the opposite of financial wealth and dropped their penny collection into the buckets, yet grateful that they could pick sweet, fresh, organically grown apples for pies, empanadas, or to can, to dry, and to share among others for nothing more than pennies.
Terrorism returned to its wicked shadows that weekend.
Our opened and festering wounds found the medicine that heals–community and apples for pennies.