At that time, we lived in a 12x60 foot house trailer. It was gray and ivory on the outside and had an unfortunate shade of burnt orange shag carpet in the living room. I still shudder a little when I think of that rug.
In our defense, orange carpet was all the rage in the early ‘70s. I’m not sure what the trailer people were thinking during those years, but we were newlyweds, and we were happy to have a place of our own.
When we married in 1974 the trailer was nestled under an old mulberry tree in a small mobile home park in Sumiton, but in 1980, we moved it to our property in the suburbs of Empire where we now live.
I’d just started with the phone company and I was earning $3.17 an hour. We didn’t have a lot of extras in those days, but we managed.
The first spring after we moved here, we ordered a golden delicious apple tree from the Stark Brothers catalog. In terms of today’s dollars, it wasn’t expensive, but we had to scrimp and save to afford it.
When the tree arrived, I dug a hole deep into the red clay and filled it with dark compost. The tiny tree was as thin as a fashion model.
We fed and coddled the little tree as if it were a baby with colic. As the years passed, it grew to a height of about 15 feet, and at harvest time, it bore softball-sized golden delicious apples that tasted like they’d been sprinkled with pure cane sugar.
Each year in late summer, I picked freckled apples the color of sunshine from the lower limbs, I’d shine them on my pant leg, and eat the fruit standing under the tree with my eyes closed.
Jilda made apple pies, we gave apples to our friends, and there were apples left for the deer to enjoy.
Then last year, our little tree began to decline in health. I cared for it like a sick child, but it looked tired.
This year, it gave up the ghost. A few days ago when a thunderstorm moved through, the wind broke half the tree from the trunk.
When I went out today it was obvious that the remaining limbs were terminal so I took the chain saw and cut down what was left.
I know there are some folks who would chide me for becoming sentimental over an apple tree. I understand that, and it’s OK with me, but that little tree meant a lot to us.
We used our hard-earned money to buy that tree, when we didn’t have much to spare. It was almost as if that little tree understood that it had to earn its keep. And for 30 years, it did.
So today as I was taking down the tree, it was not without reflection and a tinge of sadness. I thanked my old friend for all the gifts it gave us through the years.