Shepherd, Myrtle Coffey, Emmett Cagle, George and Jim, Claude and
Nooge Smith, and Callie and I got tired after the Thanksgiving Day
dinner at the Blackjack School house, so we wandered off across
found some apple trees just loaded with good, ripe juicy apples. Even
a barrel had some in it.
one of us knew we shouldn’t do it, and certainly we weren’t hungry,
why not help ourselves?
was not a soul in sight, so we decided to try and get by with taking a
few. They would never be missed from that world of apples, anyway. We
settled that each one of us could have three or four. The boys could
put theirs in their shirts, and Callie, Myrtle and I could tuck up our
skirts to hold three or four.
Stealing? Yes, we knew it! We also knew that Mr. Wheeler was a stingy
old codger who would never, ever give any of us any apples.
were talking about him, too loud, I know. Gleefully we shouted each
other down, gloating over the biggest apples. Heavenly bliss, stealing
apples, throwing down on the softly plowed ground the small ones, and
laughing about it. No one but us would ever know, we said.
busy were we that we never heard anyone around until Mr. Wheeler
grabbed my arm and growled, “Go put them apples back in them there
out my God awfullest blood curdling yell and stopped everyone in his
tracks. Jim and Nooge (Nugent) fell from the tree like a couple of
apples, but came down feet first and on the run.
“Stop!” the old man’s voice cracked like a whip – that’s when I saw
the switch he was holding.
Quickly I tried to drown out his voice by squalling louder. I was
because that was a big old switch and I knew I deserved being beat to
death with it. (And I expected to be, too!)
Them. Apples. Back. In. That. Barrel!” He accented every word through
Scared and disgusted looks were on everyone’s face except Jim and
were cutting it through the fence row and out of range. They left a
high trail of dust behind them, marking the trail of their flight.
rest of us eyed them enviously, but were trapped.
Wheeler called each one of us by name and one by one made each of us
empty our shirts and skirts into the barrel.
was when I missed George. The old man was still holding my arm and I
needed George to peel me away from him. I called and called George – I
was still crying and sniffling after a fashion. Jim was already gone,
so I’d have to go back to the wagons alone. Now I was really afraid.
George heard the fear in my voice, for he dropped from an apple tree
near where the old man and I were standing.
must have startled Mr. Wheeler (I know it did me!) because he let
loose with that switch, flailing first at George, then going after the
rest of us.
dirty. scared, and guilty we scattered fast, and ran back toward the
were a sorry looking bunch of kids when we got back to the school
house and the wagons. It seemed to me that all Blackjack was watching
our return. Some came to meet us.
guess who didn’t meet us? The two thieves who got away with it. Jim
and Nooge were sitting on the spring seat of the wagon, munching
apples and smart alecing.
“Where in the world have you all been?” they asked.
aftermath? Our parents made us go back and help Mr. Wheeler sort his
apples for market. Our pay? One apple each for about three days work
apiece. And oh, yes, Jim and Nooge had to help, too!