Posts tagged ‘Johnny Appleseed’

June 8, 2010

Week 6: Knox County Apple

Apple tree in full blossom

Where is this tree?

Oak Street, Mount Vernon, Ohio.

What story does this tree have to tell?

Do you remember any trees?

My world was upended a few years after I heard a Johnny Appleseed story. Our property was sold off and sub-divided, and not surprisingly, the  apple tree was cut down and a house was built in its stead. Only recently did I start to wonder about the story an elderly neighbor had told.

I sometimes ask strangers if a tree has ever mattered to them. Most say yes. Even cities dwellers or villagers from bare mountains will recall exact details – a nail in the bark, a root arched out of the ground, a horizontal limb the size of a child’s torso. Few memories are saccharine.  As much as we remember the scent of blossoms, we also recall the odor of trampled apricots or the spoilt-milk smell of butyric acid from ginkgo seeds.

I remember that early spring brought pale pink and white blossoms that turned into hard fruit—the small apples so tart they would dry out your mouth—and I also remember the story told by our neighbor. One day as she sat rocking on her back porch, she asked if I knew that Johnny Appleseed had planted the apple tree.  I listened politely. We had learned in school that American homespun myths were “tall tales,” and that these somehow were different from lies…

Johnny Appleseed’s real name was John Chapman, and he was born in 1774 somewhere in Massachusetts – a few communities lay claim to him. He trampled through frontier woodlands barefoot planting medicinal and cooking herbs, at least one weed (dog fennel), grapes and apple trees. Dressed in cast-off clothes, Chapman would read from the Bible or from Edward Swedenborg when he visited people in the Ohio Country.

John Chapman planted trees in Ohio, but did he canoe up to our neighborhood and plant a seed in our side yard?  What would have brought him there?  Whose land did he plant on?  I’m going to find the answers to these questions and record them here.

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