Growing up on the outskirts of a small town meant I had the best of both worlds. There was a dairy farm up the road from the house I grew up in and the owner was a kind-hearted man, much loved by the entire community. He had the very cliché name of Mr. Mac Donald, and yes, children in the area dubbed him "Old Mac Donald".
Old Mac Donald had a beautiful old apple orchard in which I spent many hours playing during my youth. He kept his dairy cows and his horses there in the autumn so they could clean up the apples that fell to the ground. I liked the cows, but the horses were my main attraction. They were huge Clydesdales, yet they were gentle as kittens and I loved to stroke their soft noses and give them fresh picked apples from the trees.
Mr. Mac Donald was very generous with the apples in his orchard and it was common knowledge that the whole neighbourhood was welcome to pick as many as they liked for their own use. It was often that my Mom would send me to the orchard with a pail to collect apples for some treat she wanted to bake. It was one chore that I really enjoyed doing. Not only did I get to visit the horses, but I'd be rewarded with a delicious dessert after supper that night.
One gorgeous fall Saturday, my best friend, Judy and I were spending the day playing together. It was decided that my friend would stay for supper, so I pleaded with Mom to bake an apple pie for dessert. Judy, who had experienced the pleasures of Mom's pie before, got in on the coaxing, and finally my mother laughingly agreed to bake one, if we would go to the orchard and collect the apples ourselves. Of course we would! We practically flew there in our excitement.
Knowing Mom needed plenty of time to bake the pie before supper, we wasted no time and hurriedly began filling our pail. Little did we know the fate soon to befall us. We had no idea that it was breeding time on Old Mac Donald's farm, and a huge black bull had joined the cows in the orchard. As we picked our apples, moving from tree to tree, we chatted away, innocently unaware of the dark menace only a few feet away. It wasn't until we heard a loud snort behind us, that we turned as one to see the enormous black beast running full tilt toward us.
Looking back it seems like one second we were on the ground and in the next we were fifteen feet up in the top of an apple tree. Fear is an amazing motivator. Venturing a look down we saw the bull standing below, peering up at us. It was pretty obvious he wanted to eat us. There was nothing for it but to stay up in the tree until the bull got bored with us and left.
It soon became apparent that the bull found Judy and I to be infinitely interesting. Every time we'd think he was leaving we'd start clamboring down the tree, only to see the beast come running back. After a few hours it ceased to be funny. Our butts were sore, our backs were being chafed by the tree bark, we were hungry, and worse, it was getting dark. Tearfully, we faced the prospect of spending the night in the apple tree. Alone. In the dark. With a bull.
Our sniffles were just beginning to turn into full-fledged sobs when we heard a faint cry, "Charmie! Charmie!" Judy and I looked at each other in the gloom of dusk and smiled. It was my Dad, calling my name. He had come to rescue us from the mad bull! Laughing and crying at the same time we both began to yell, "Here! We're here in the tree!"
Watching Dad stroll into the orchard I was never so glad to see anyone in my life, as I was at that moment. Still crying, I yelled to Dad to watch out for the mad bull. I explained that we couldn't get down from the tree because the terrible beast wanted to eat us. Nonchalantly, Dad walked over to the bull, scratched him behind the ears and gave him a fresh apple from the tree. "You mean this big bad bull here? " he said, "This is just old Charlie! He's as sweet as a lamb. He was just hoping you'd give him a fresh-picked apple. He likes them better than the ones on the ground."
Copyright © June 22, 1998,
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