It’s a lovely autumn morning. A cool breeze greats me as I begin to wake, only to be jolted into full consciousness by the loud  quacking of “Daphne” our new pet duck. She was given to us by friends of the family. IBMer’s who live in the IBM owned burbs of Rochester.

They only realized they were totally unprepared to do right by Daphne, once she grew to become a full sized duck. Then they begged us to take her. And they pleaded us to not eat her. Heh… At our place Daphne does not fit in with the other animals at all. She’s a people’s duck and since I have been charged with the duty of keeping her fed, she is now my duck.

Now, every morning Daphne never fails in reminding me of my duties. She waddles outside my open window quacking. Softly at first, but if I am even the slightest bit sluggish to get up, Daphne is capable of getting very loud.

“Quaaaack quaaaack quaaaaaack!!! Quack quack quack quack!”

“Yea, yea yea Daphne! Ok ok I’m up!”

It appears I have the place to myself this morning. Everyone else must have a busy day planned or something. I don’t care, or think about it for more than a moment. Since I now have my own car, I don’t have to deal with anyone else’s schedule. I’m expected to be responsible for getting myself to school on time and I always do. I can be trusted. I am a good boy after all.

I shuffle my sixteen year old good boy body to the kitchen to make myself something to eat. Ahhh… a fried egg sandwich. My favorite. Over easy on toast with lots of catsup and mayonnaise. Yum. I can still hear Daphne outside quacking. She has now moved to the window just outside the kitchen. I head to the toilet with my sandwich and a glass of orange juice.

After completing my chores, I have some time before I need to get on the road. So I decide that today I’ll get those apples I’d been thinking about for some time now. The back fence-line of our forty acres of land borders on an apple orchard. Old man Warner’s orchard. Our school bus driver. He still does a yearly harvest but stopped operating it as a commercial orchard years ago.

I love apples.

I still have this wonderful memory of the days when Dad was really into making cider in our garage, when we lived on sixteenth avenue. I must have been six or seven years old. He’d made friends with the owner of an orchard east of Rochester, Fred Wydra. Every fall, Fred invited his buddies over to pick the last of the apples of the season and make cider.

We’d all get on the wagon, or walk beside it as Fred drove us between the rows of bare apple trees. He had several varieties that ripened at different times throughout the year, but only one kind that still had apples this late in the fall. Apples he’d chosen to grow just for making cider every year.

Once we got to those trees, we picked every apple we could. The load was then taken back to his sorting room, where Fred had an old juicing machine set up. Apples were dumped into the hopper that fed them to a grinder which had been fitted with a small electric motor. The pieces came out directly under the grinder and fell onto a pallet covered by a burlap sack that had been laid flat. The sack was then folded over the mash and another pallet placed on top and then the whole thing was pushed under a really old, hand cranked press.

The best part for six year old me was pushing through the men (including my dad) who stood around where the juice flowed down. They took turns filling their five gallon crockery pots, collecting their portion of the precious apple nectar. The juice they would soon get home to their own little cider making hobbyists’ operation. I’d elbow my way to the front and stick my glass into the flow for one more drink of the fresh sweet juice.

Ummm….. so good.

With apples on the brain and tongue, I get into my Malibu to fulfill my plan. The old rattle trap shudders as I put it into gear. The 327 Chevy V8 runs great but the body is so rusted out it shakes all over at the slightest movement.

I back down the driveway from the garage and shift into first. Already operating the old three speed manual transmission on the steering column like an expert. Dad calls it a “three on the tree”. I shift into second gear and head through the open gate into the pasture.

Once I get to the back fence, I park and walk to the first of old man Warner’s trees. They’re not well taken care of but still have loads of good apples on them. Even on the ground. It’s still early enough in the season. I only take apples that have recently fallen to the ground. Keith told me that Warner wouldn’t care (or even notice) if I took these apples. I want to be sure and get them with as little drama as possible and besides, it isn’t right to take fruit still on the trees. That would be steeling. Apples on the ground are destined to become pig feed anyway.

Keith told me that if old man Warner caught anyone taking apples he’d shoot them with his salt gun. I’m not worried about that since my plan was sure to take into consideration that Warner is still driving to school, all those poor fools with no car right now.

I load up my old station wagon with as many apples as I have time to get. I got plenty. The back floor is covered with apples and so is the front seat. I’ll just be able to make it to my first class in time so I won’t be able to show anyone my haul until lunch.

Man will my friends be surprised by this.

To be continued…