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An apple a day will at least give you something to ponder
by Sharon Randall
Scripps Howard News Service


February 21, 2005

At the urging of my children - who are proving, I must say, smarter as adults than they appeared to be as teenagers - I've been trying to make my peace with apples.

This is not as easy as it might seem. I've known my share of bad apples. Eve was not the last woman to run afoul with fruit.

The summer I turned 6, my mother handed me a paper sack and told me to pack my worldly possessions, such as they were, because we were moving again.

I was not pleased to hear it. I had come to like the place that we'd called home in the two years since my mother had married my stepfather.

I'd gotten to know all our neighbors - the nice ones, who let me pick tomatoes from their gardens and the mean ones I'd learned to avoid.

I even knew the names of all the dogs - the good dogs that would lick my hand and the bad dogs that would bite me. Even the biters were getting used to me. If I looked them in the eye and told them to leave me be, sometimes they'd flat out tuck their tails and run. Other times, they would flat out bite me.

I didn't want to go to a new place and start all over with a new set of faces and fangs.

Turns out, I needn't have worried. We moved out to the country to a house surrounded by orchards. There was not a neighbor or a dog for miles.

Nothing but apple trees. And apples. And apple-eating cows.

I liked the trees. I'd climb up high in them and sit for hours dreaming about everything and nothing, missing the dogs, good and bad, that I used to know.

But apples were sour and wormy, worth picking for two reasons only: First, my mother could turn them into the best cobbler you ever put in your mouth. And second, they came in handy for throwing at cows.

The second reason followed the first. Cows are duplicitous by nature. They'd appear not to notice if I climbed a tree above their heads. They'd just lie on the ground in big smelly heaps, looking glum, chewing their cuds, pretending not to care.

But if I tried to sneak off with a bucket of apples, they'd come at me like hounds on a rabbit.

My brother, who was blind, found this hilarious. He didn't need to see the cows. He would hear their hooves thundering after me. Then he'd hear me scream. And finally he'd hear the apples (thwack! thwack!) as I pelted them in self-defense off the cows' thick skulls.

My mother always said it took a full bucket of apples to make a cobbler: Half a bucket to bake; the other half to save me from an unseemly death.

Repeated experiences left me with a lingering distaste for apples and a lifelong mistrust for cows. Somehow, it had no bearing at all on my fondness for cobbler (though I much prefer peach to apple.) I even like milk. And beef.

I actually like the taste of apples. It's just that, well, whenever I hold one in my hand, I get the strangest urge to throw it hard and run.

I didn't say it made sense.

Apples are good things. And they are good for us. Everybody knows that _ even my children, who've grown up to be wiser than their mother about a lot of things. Never mind what.

Things we learn as children - all the distastes and mistrusts, all the irrational fears and unfounded lies - don't always have to dog us, nipping at our heels for the rest of our lives.

If we look them in the eye and tell them to leave us be, sometimes they will flat out tuck their tails and run.

Other times, they'll flat out bite us. Either way, we won't know until we try, will we?

I'm trying to eat more apples. Don't ask me to trust a cow.


Sharon Randall is the author of "Birdbaths and Paper Cranes."
Contact her at P.O. Box 931, Pacific Grove, CA 93950,
or at randallbay(at)


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