Another gorgeous late Summer day which truly felt like Autumn had arrived. I headed down to Council Point Park and did two laps before I had to reluctantly tear myself away and head home. I arrived bearing “gifts” and started scoping out any of the usual peanut pals. My treasures included a fresh Ziploc bag of peanuts and a bigger bag with a half-dozen Pink Lady apples. The latter had been languishing in a corner of my vegetable bin in the fridge. They looked good before the power outage, but then after a day without refrigeration, they got a little soft and a tad wrinkly looking , so I decided I’d share them with my friends in the park. While I walked along the trail the first time around, I peered through the trees and bushes looking for my furry friends and didn’t see a single one, so I decided to make some “droppings” along the way. I set out each of the six apples at different locations along the perimeter path. On the second go-around, I noticed that four of the apples were already gone. Down the trail a few paces, one squirrel was sitting on his haunches happily gnawing away and still another squirrel was trying to carry, or maybe chase after, a half-eaten apple in the grass. I guess he was taking it home to the family. No squirrels were following me today, so I just kept the peanuts in my jacket pocket for the next trip.
As I walked along, I kept thinking about those squirrels enjoying their unexpected treat and it got me thinking about “horse apples” … no – it’s not what you think. Our neighbors Ann and Andy lived across the street for decades. They had large apple trees in their backyard. As each of their children arrived, they planted a tree to mark that child’s birth. There were two maple trees out front and two apple trees in the backyard, all planted in the 40s and 50s. But times were tough raising four kids who came along right after one another. Andy never sprayed those apple trees to prevent pests from attacking and burrowing into those apples before they got a chance to pick them and enjoy them. Those apple trees were bountiful anyway; some apples were perfect specimens and safe to eat, but many of them had worm holes or were otherwise imperfect. While the kids were growing up, alot of applesauce was made and even “put up” for Winter. Ann would stand for hours, peeling and coring apples, then her slight frame was hunched over the stove while she stirred and swirled those slices in a cast iron pot ‘til they were stewed, then simmered slowly into smooth, sweet and tangy applesauce. Through the years, and especially after Ann and Andy’s brood was gone, apples were offered to my mom, and she would make up batches of applesauce. But folks get older and spending the better part of an afternoon making applesauce got tiring. Ann asked if we knew anyone who’d like those less-than-perfect apples, as she didn’t want to waste food. Well, I knew the perfect recipient and soon I started lugging a bag on the bus every week to give to one of my bosses, Terry. His wife had a horse and these apples became that critter’s daily treat almost into the Winter. Terry and his wife each had their own hobbies – although he was a paralegal by day, his real love was his street stock race car, which he raced in Toledo or at Flat Rock Speedway every weekend in the Spring through the Fall. The wages he made as a paralegal helped support his hobby – gas and the substantial repair of dents and paint scrapes, the result of SS #81 being sideswiped too often at the track. His wife, Sheryl, had no interest in racing, as her passion was her horse. Well, they didn’t get in each other’s hair anyway. So, for many years that horse was blessed to be the beneficiary of those many McIntosh apples until Robb and I departed the law firm and went out on our own in 2003.
I left the Park wearing a silly grin on my face … I was thinking about that little squirrel chomping down on his treat and that horse with an apple clenched between his big teeth. Next time I visit, that squirrel will be on the lookout for me – maybe I ought to spring for cider and donuts … I do believe that one squirrel at the Park knows he is the apple of my eye. Just please don’t tell Buddy.
My trips to Council Point Park never disappoint … no expectations, just enjoying life’s little pleasures. Perhaps Henry Ward Beecher said it better than me …
“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.”
~Henry Ward Beecher