“What did you say Johnny Appleseed’s real name was again, Scott?”
Dr. Nathan Pruitt asked.
“John, or Jonathan – according to some sources – Chapman,” was
the reply. “He was born out in
Leominster on September 26, 1774 and died February 18, 1845.
He lived to be just over seventy. Pretty
remarkable age for that time period.”
Nathan and Scott were collaborating on a presentation about apples and
their uses at the local school. Miss
Bowley, the teacher, knowing the background of both men had asked them to work
together on a presentation for the children.
having been raised in the state where Johnny Appleseed first saw the light of
day and spent the first eighteen years of his life, was putting together
information on Chapman’s family and upbringing. Although Nathan was from
Philadelphia he knew quite a bit about Chapman’s early nursery work in
western Pennsylvania. Together
they hoped to come up with an interesting story complete with pictures and
free apples. Johnny had chipped in
his two cents worth about how apples were good treats for horses but if they
ate too many of them they could get colic.
Although the two older men were already familiar with this they thanked
Johnny for his contribution. It
certainly couldn’t hurt to remind the children of this so that they didn’t
overindulge their ponies and horses.
Nathan was working on the biographical information for Chapman, more notably
known as Johnny Appleseed, Scott was looking through books on agriculture for
information on the different types of apples, their uses and when they were
developed. He was amazed at how
many different types of seedlings he was finding for sale in the catalogues he
had on the table next to him.
of them predated Johnny Appleseed and some were fairly recent varieties that
had been developed. Some were good
eating, some didn’t keep well and others were better for cooking.
are several varieties here that were developed over in England and on the
European continent,” Scott murmured as he continued his search for
first started working as a nurseryman in western Pennsylvania,” Nathan
noted. “He picked up seeds from
cider mills for free because the people who owned the mills were more than
happy to see more trees get planted. It
meant more apples for the mill.”
fellas planning on starting an apple farm or something?”
was making his presence known and it didn’t thrill his brother at that point
in time as Johnny had been making a pest of himself all day.
Even without his “Prankster Posse” Johnny could be a bratty little
brother and he was getting on Scott’s nerves.
Scott and Nathan had a lot to do and it was imperative that they do as
much as they could today as they wouldn’t have any time the rest of the week
until Nathan and Sam Jenkins traded shifts again.
They had promised to do their presentation in three weeks.
two doctors, one old and one young, had a system worked out whereby they each
worked a certain number of days and split the seventh between them. Sam worked
days and Nathan was on call for any emergencies that might arise at night.
Next week they would trade shifts and Nathan would be the one working days.
was working out pretty well so far. Sam
was able to still see his patients but he wasn’t run ragged and Nathan was
meeting new people, making new friends and gaining new patients every day.
Furthermore coming west had been a blessing for back in Philadelphia
Nathan had often found himself working nights for several months at a time and
when he wasn’t working he was forced to endure his socialite mother’s
continuous – even endless – round of dinner parties which he hated with a
was thrilled with his young partner and glad to be able to have a few nights
of decent sleep. Just before his
friends had convinced him that he needed to hire a partner Sam had suffered a
nervous collapse brought on by overwork and lack of sleep.
Everyone had been afraid it was his heart but a checkup by another
doctor – one sent for from Sacramento at quite an expense – had proven
otherwise. Sam hadn’t objected
for long and now he was glad that he had acquiesced to his friends’ wishes.
Nathan was a good man and a good doctor who was fast becoming as
popular as Sam himself – especially since he could hold his own against the
Prankster Posse. Individually or
collectively Johnny, Kevin, Rico and Willlie stood no chance against Nathan
Pruitt’s sharp wit. The snipe
hunt episode had proven that.
little brother,” Scott said. “We
are not planning on starting an ‘apple farm’ as you put it.
We are merely trying to put together a good report for the children.”
news for you two,” Johnny said with a smirk.
“Those kids don’t much care about how many different kinds of
apples there are or where they grow. They
just want to eat ‘em.”
still important information,” Scott told him.
“Why don’t you go find something to do where you won’t bother
should have known better. The look
on Johnny’s face, and the gleam in his eye, foretold of more smart remarks
here’s an apple that they grow over in Japan.
Isn’t that interesting. They
use them for ammunition when they go to war because they’re so small and
hard.” Johnny mimicked a
schoolmaster’s tone. “Oh and
this one here – this McIntosh is every horse’s favorite.”
funny little brother,” Scott grumbled.
Scott, I’ve got an idea,” Johnny’s eyes danced with mischief.
“Why don’t we demonstrate to the kids how an apple on top of a
man’s head makes a good target. It’ll
be just like that William Tell fella you told me about.
I’ll be William and you can be the guy who has the apple on his head.
I guarantee you I won’t miss.”
pushing it little brother,” Scott said with a slight edge to his voice.
“I’m not about to let you take a shot at an apple on my head – or
anybody else’s for that matter.”
Who’s this guy?” Johnny pointed to the illustration in Nathan’s
book of Johnny Appleseed wearing a sack with a rope tied around his waste and
a cooking pot on his head.
supposed to be Mr. Chapman,” Scott replied.
thought you said this here fella’s name was Appleseed.
Why are ya callin’ him Chapman?”
“Johnny Appleseed was merely his nickname,” Nathan explained. “He was born John, or Jonathan, Chapman in Leominster, Massachusetts.”
He must have been a fun dude. Walkin’
around wearing a feed sack with a pot on his head.
Folks must have thought the circus was coming to town.”
Johnny grinned impudently at the two older men.
not funny.” Scott was getting
my boy,” Nathan said with a wink at Scott, “if you’re not careful
we’re going to put you to work. We
can always use a model for the picture of Johnny Appleseed.”
on rapidly to what his friend had in mind Scott agreed, “You know you’re
right. I think the children would
enjoy seeing my brother wearing nothing but rags with a pot on his head.”
what they say Mr. Chapman wore,” Nathan said with a smirk of his own.
“Popular image shows him wearing rags, a pot on his head and going
barefoot. Now I don’t know if
that’s really true…”
two older men circled Johnny eyeing him up and down as if to gauge what size
feed sack they would need and whether or not Maria had an old pot he could
wear on his head. He wouldn’t
need any shoes because Johnny Appleseed had always gone barefoot in the summer
to save leather. The younger man
was beginning to get nervous.
sure would make an interesting sight for the kids though, Nathan.”
Scott was struggling to control his laughter.
“I think Teresa knows where there might be some old clothes that
Johnny could wear and I’m sure Maria wouldn’t mind loaning Juanito a pot
so long as he scrubbed it good before he gave it back to her.
If he doesn’t I’m sure he’ll be wearing it anyway – and a lump
on his head to boot.”
Jelly must know where there’s an empty feed sack he could wear…”
fled the room before Nathan could finish his sentence.
Seconds later the other two men heard the front door slam on their
laughter as Johnny fled the house. Hoofbeats echoed as the younger Lancer
disappeared to go find his buddies and hit the saloon in one of the three area
towns and spend the night playing poker. Blessed
peace would reign for a while so that they could make some progress before
Nathan left for town.
that Johnny I heard?” Murdoch asked as he entered the room through the
it was. He won’t be back for a
while,” Scott said as he tried to regain his breath.
so funny?” the Lancer patriarch asked as he eyed his son and the doctor.
was making a pest of himself so we told him we’d use him as a model for
Johnny Appleseed,” Nathan explained as he, too, struggled to stop laughing.
with feed sack and a pot on his head. My
little brother didn’t exactly jump at the chance to play the part.
In fact I doubt we’ll see him before midnight,” Scott said.
“I would imagine he’s gone to find Kevin, Rico and Willie and tell
them his tale of woe in order to get some sympathy.”
laughed heartily at the thought. Teresa
and Maria heard him from the kitchen where they were cleaning up after lunch.
so funny?” the little brunette wanted to know.
she and Maria heard the story they, too, laughed.
The thought of Johnny wearing rags, or a feed sack, with a pot on his
head and no shoes was just too absurd.
more than one way to skin a cat,” Murdoch said.
get rid of a pesky little brother,” added Scott.
ward off an infamous gunfighter?” Nathan asked with raised eyebrows and a
twinkle in his eye.
scare off an infamous gunfighter,” Murdoch agreed with a chuckle.
The next few days found Nathan and Scott putting the final touches on
their presentation. Scott was
wrapping up the biographical information and Nathan had taken the information
Scott had found on the different types of apples – cultivators was the term
all their literature used – and together they would explain what happened to
apples at a cider press, what the substance was called that was leftover after
apples had been pressed at the mill and a brief history on different types of
apples. Also they would answer any questions the children had.
Mariano Portillo had been drafted to do some artwork for them.
Everything went well and none of the members of the Prankster Posse –
their illustrious leader included – hassled the doctor or the former
Bostonian lest they be drafted to play Johnny Appleseed.
Kevin Millar was heard to bemoan the fact that his little sister,
Kelly, would never ever let him hear the end of it so made especially sure to
avoid the two men. And anyway
Willie and Rico were members of ethnic groups that Chapman was not so they
were safe and they all knew that if Maura Talbot heard about them interfering
with a request from the schoolmistress they wouldn’t be welcome in her
kitchen without a severe lecture for some time.
They didn’t want to miss out on the treats she gave them.
“So you see, there are many different kinds of apples grown here, and
overseas, that have many different uses,” Scott wrapped up the presentation.
“MacIntoshes happen to be my favorite eating apple,” Nathan said,
“and they’re wonderful in pies. My
father is partial to Newton Pippin.” Laughing
he added, “My mother highly approves because they date back over one hundred
years and are supposed to have been the favorites of Benjamin Franklin and
Thomas Jefferson both of whom spent considerable time in Philadelphia.”
When they were through the children applauded politely and happily
accepted a free apple from the two men.
“Thank you, gentlemen,” Miss Bowley said.
“That was very interesting. To
think that the orchards you pass through in the Midwest – places like
Indiana and Illinois – owe their existence to a poor man from Massachusetts
who picked up free seeds in Pennsylvania and gave them away as he traveled
throughout the area.”
Thus was concluded the first ever Johnny Appleseed Day presentation in the San Joaquim Valley. No more was heard about William Tell, shooting apples off of people’s heads or using apples as ammunition. Johnny Madrid Lancer was keeping his mouth shut lest his brother and the new doctor keep their promise, to make him their model for Johnny Appleseed. Or had it been a threat? No matter. Johnny wasn’t about to find out how serious they were. No way.