Don’t spoil the whole bunch

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… One bad apple don’t spoil
The whole bunch, girl …

— George Jackson

One day it’s Robert Frost, the next day it’s an old hit by The Osmonds. It’s amazing what goes through your head when you’re up on a ladder picking apples.

This time it got me to thinking about life lessons, as well as the craft of writing. After all, the apple is said to be the fruit of the tree of knowledge. Does the knowledge of good versus evil extend to the knowledge of good versus bad?

You learn to tell good from bad fast enough when you’re picking apples. Those red ones on the ground you see in the picture above? Those are bad apples. Soft. Squishy. Sour-smelling. The wasps love ’em.

Most of these fell from the tree, and the old saying is true: The apples don’t fall far from the tree. Then they soon go bad, if they haven’t already. I rake them aside to clear my work space, and my mind, for more productive endeavors.


That’s not to say that all that fall from the tree, or into your lap, or on your head, are bad apples. The good ones, the ones that land gently on the grass, unbruised, unblemished — these are called windfalls. Like their namesakes, they can be profitable. The two shown here graced our dinner table with little or no effort on my part other than a wash and a shining.

Tonight’s windfall from the old apple tree.

Windfalls, though, are rare — at least the good ones are. To find a truly good apple, you have to reach, pluck, examine.

A perfect pick is as rare as a good windfall. A dent here, a bruise there, and it would be destined for Frost’s cider barrel. I don’t have the creativity or the tools for cider, so they all get tossed or raked into the field for the wildlife to enjoy.

A puncture in the skin, or a bit of rot, will undermine the quality of the fruit, but not ruin its neighbors on the tree or in the barrel.  The photo below shows part of our golden delicious tree. The ones at about 9 o’clock are food for the wasps. The ones to the right are beyond my reach (even if I would attempt climbing a ladder to fight off the hungry yellow jackets.)

Perhaps those, too, will become windfalls. If not, a man’s reach should exceed his grasp.