A couple of weeks ago Laura and I went on a walk and passed an apple tree in front of a small apartment complex. We probably wouldn’t have noticed it, except that the ground around the tree was covered in decomposing apples. When we looked up we were surprised to see that the tree was still full of fruit. Laura picked one and tasted it, and when she said it was delicious we decided to come back with bags and pick more. After all, we figured, the number of apples on the ground suggested that no one else was interested in them.
Because the apples weren’t necessarily ours, we felt the need to be sneaky. The first time we went back there was a guy in front of the apartments barbequing, so we pretended we weren’t there to steal his apples and kept walking. Then, later that night after it was dark, we stealthily returned and proceeded to pick more apples than we knew what to do with.
Just about the time our many bags began to overflow the barbeque guy came back out and gave us a suspicious look. I don’t blame him; Laura was ten feet up in the tree and I was down below catching apples in my messenger bag. However, what he said surprised me. Instead of asking us to leave he told us that he “wouldn’t eat the apples. Box elders got into them. Take them if you want, but eat them at your own risk.”
Now, it’s possible the guy just wanted us to leave and so he made up an excuse to scare us away. However, if that was his goal he failed because Laura had already eaten some of the apples and was just fine. Also, I had never heard of anyone dying or becoming sick due to box elders. Nevertheless our bags were full (we probably had a bushel or more), so we left.
Since then I’ve tried to look up the dangers of box elders, but to no avail. More importantly, Laura and I have made numerous loaves of apple bread, apple pies, and eaten many raw apples with no negative repercussions. If we found a bug-infested apple, we threw it in the compost pile (which is also a secret that I’m hoping will totally decompose before the landlord notices it).
In the end I’m left to wonder why the barbeque guy was afraid of the apples in front of his apartment (if he was serious about them being bad, which I believe he was). Since then Laura and I have actually found another apple tree at another apartment complex and picked even more apples. (In fact, we picked at least twice as many from that tree and had to make two arduous trips to carry them all home.) Like the first tree this one was surrounded by fallen, decomposing apples. Clearly, no one wanted them and I felt like it almost as my duty to pick all the remaining good apples and eat them so they wouldn’t go to waste. While I’m glad I benefited from these trees, there was more than enough for everyone in the vicinity, if anyone had cared to look.
While I’ll explore some of the larger thoughts I had about this experience in subsequent posts, the most basic conclusion that I’ve come to is to not be afraid to take a risk (in this case that risk was the very slight chance of becoming sick from eating a bad apple, but I suppose there are broader applications to that idea, which I’ve commented on before). The other basic idea that I think emerges here is that there are free, delicious, and abundant resources all around us all, ripe for the taking.