JOHNNY APPLESEED





Many years ago on the sparsely settled prairies of America there lived an old man who was known by the name of "Johnny Appleseed."   He had no home that he could call his own, but wandered about from place to place, with only a few friends and little or no money. His face was wrinkled, his hair was thin and grey, and his shoulders stooped.  His clothes were old and ragged and his hat was old and shabby.   Yet inside of him was a heart that was brave and true, and he felt that even he, old and poor as he was, could be of use in the world, because he loved his fellow-men, and believed that love always finds something to do.


As he trudged along the lonely road from town to town, or made for himself a path through the unbroken forest, he often thought of his good God, and of how all men were children of the One Father.

 

The old man wandered about from village to village, which in those days were scattered far apart, with miles and miles of prairie land stretching between them, and sometimes woodland and rivers, too, would separate one village from the next.  At night he usually earned his crust of bread and lodgings by mending the teakettle or wash-boiler of some farmer's wife, or by soldering on the handle of her tin cup or the knob to her tea-pot, as he always carried in one of his coat pockets a small charcoal stove and a bit of solder. He always carried under his arm or over his shoulder a bag, and when the mending was done he would oftentimes draw out of this bag an old violin and begin to play, and the farmer, as well

as his wife and the children, would gather around him and listen to his music.   Sometimes it was happy and sometimes it was sad, but always sweet.  Sometimes he sang words that he himself had written, and sometimes the songs which had been written by the great masters. But mending broken tinware and playing an old violin were not the only things he did to help the world along. As he wandered from place to place he often noticed how rich the soil was, and he would say to himself, "Someday this will be a great country with thousands of people living on this land, and though I shall never see them, they may never read my verses or hear my name, still I can help them, and add some things to their lives."

 

So whenever a farmer's wife gave him an apple to eat he carefully saved every seed that lay hidden in the heart of the apple, and next day as he trudged along he would stoop down every now and then

and plant a few of the seeds and then carefully cover them with the rich black soil of the prairie.  Then he would look up reverently to the sky and say, "I can but plant the seed, dear Lord, and Thy clouds may water them, but Thou alone can give the increase. Thou only can cause this tiny seed to grow into a tree whose fruit shall feed my fellow men."

 

When the cold winters came and the ground was frozen too hard for him to plant his apple seeds, he still saved them, and would often have a small bag full of them by the time that spring returned again. 

 

Though nobody took very much notice of what he was doing, he still continued each day to plant apple seeds and each evening to play on his violin.

 

 

The tiny apple seeds took root and began to grow, and each summer the young saplings grew taller and each winter they grew stronger, until at last they were young trees, and then they were old enough to bear apples. As people moved from the east out to the wild western prairies they selected sites for building their homes near the fruitful apple trees, and in the springtime the young men gathered the blossoms for the young maidens to wear in their hair, and in the autumn the fathers gathered the ripe red and yellow apples to store away in their cellars for winter use, and the mothers made apple sauce and apple pies and apple dumplings of them, and all the year round the little children played under the shade of the apple trees, but none of them ever once thought of the old man who had planted for people he did not know, and who could never even thank him for his loving services.

 

Each apple that ripened bore in its heart a number of new seeds, some of which were planted and grew into fine orchards from which were gathered many barrels of apples. These were shipped farther west, until the Rocky Mountains were reached. In the center of each apple shipped were more seeds, from which grew more apple trees, which bore the same kind of apples that the wrinkled old man in shabby old clothes had planted long years before. So that many thousands of people have already been benefited by what the poor old man in the shabby old coat did, and thousands yet to come will enjoy the fruits of his labor.

 

And though most don’t remember his name, John Chapman, throughout history he has been come to be known as Johnny Appleseed.  John Chapman was born on September 26, 1774.  It is widely believed that he died on March 11, 1845.  That is why Johnny Appleseed day might be celebrated on either day.

 



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