from Trail of Apple Blossoms
by Irene Hunt
illustrated by Don Bolognese
Follett Publishing Company, 1968
John Chapman, the man, traveled from his birthplace in Massachusetts across New York, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana to Illinois, but he was no mere wanderer. His father taught him farming. He taught himself to be an orchardist and nurseryman.
His apples were “spitters,” not fit for eating, but mighty fine for hard cider and applejack. As a crop, his apples were much more valuable than eating- or cooking-apples. After all, water could harbor all sorts of dangerous bacteria, but cider was perfectly safe.
John knew Frontier Law provided land ownership in exchange for planting 50 apple trees so he planted 50-tree swaths all across Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, and Illinois. He sold his land to settlers and pioneers at a reasonable price. He didn’t need much, only some cornmeal and a warm place to sleep now and then.
John Chapman, the man, never married or had children. He was friend to settlers, pioneers, Native Americans, and Nature.
Johnny Appleseed, the legend, had a pet wolf, Graybeard, that he tamed after saving him from a hunter’s trap. He spoke the language of squirrels and bears. Johnny Appleseed, the legend, owned nothing but the clothes on his back, a tin cooking pot he wore as a hat, a Bible and a sack of apple seeds he flung behind himself on his wanderings. Apple trees grew from these seeds as if by magic and fed hungry pioneers.
Larger than life in the legends about him, John Chapman the man, was cheerful, humble, kind, generous, wise about mankind and nature, and learned in the ways of trees. At his death in 1845, he had traversed over 100,000 miles and amassed a fortune: about 1,200 acres of farmland not counting his tree nursery in Fort Wayne where he raised thousands of seedlings that he sold, traded and planted.
So here’s how to become a legend
- “Larger than life” starts small.
- Kindness is crucial.
- Animals are respected, not tamed or eaten.
- Generosity and humility can be learned.
- Self-sufficiency is achieved by learning a useful trade.
- Gratitude, as a way of life, can be quite satisfying.
Here’s a good book with a chapter on apples: The Botany of Desire by Michael Pollan. (Random House, 2001)