The Weekly Newspaper serving the citizens of Morenci, Mich., Fayette, Ohio, and surrounding areas.

  • Front.sculpt
    SKEWERS, gumdrops, and marshmallows are all that’s needed to create interesting shapes and designs for Layla McDowell Saturday at Stair District Library’s “Sculptamania!” Open House. The program featuring design games and materials is one part of a larger project funded by a $7,500 Curiosity Creates grant from Disney and the American Library Association. Additional photos are on page 7.
    Morenci marching band members took to the field Friday night dressed for Halloween during the Bulldog’s first playoff game. Morenci fans had a bit of a scare until the fourth quarter when the Bulldogs scored 30 points to leave Lenawee Christian School behind. Whiteford visits Morenci this Friday for the district championship game. From the left is Clayton Borton, Morgan Merillat and James O’Brien.
    DNA PUZZLE—Mitchell Storrs and Wyatt Mohr tackle a puzzle representing the structure of DNA. There’s only one correct way for all the pieces to fit. It’s one of the new materials that can be used in both biology and chemistry classes, said teacher Loretta Cox.
  • Front.tar.wide
    A TRAFFIC control worker stands in the middle of Morenci’s Main Street Tuesday morning, waiting for the next flow of vehicles to be let through from the west. The dusty gravel surface was sealed with a layer of tar, leaving only the application of paint for new striping. The project was completed in conjunction with county road commission work west of Morenci.
  • Front.pull
    JUNIORS Jazmin Smith and Trevor Corkle struggle against a team from the sophomore class Friday during the annual tug of war at the Homecoming Games pep rally. Even the seniors struggled against the sophomores who won the competition. At the main course of the day, the Bulldog football team struggled against Whiteford in a homecoming loss.
    YOUNG soccer players surived a chilly morning Saturday in Morenci’s PTO league. From the left is Emma Cordts, Wayne Corser, Carter and Levi Seitz, Briella York and Drew Joughin. Two more weeks of soccer remain for this season.
  • Front.ropes
    BOWEN BAUMGARTNER of Morenci makes his way across a rope bridge constructed by the Tecumseh Boy Scout troop Sunday at Lake Hudson Recreation Area. The bridge was one of many challenges, displays and games set up for the annual Youth Jamboree by the Michigan DNR. Additional photos on are the back page of this week’s Observer.
  • Front.homecoming Court
    One of four senior candidates will be crowned the fall homecoming queen during half-time of this week’s Morenci-Whiteford football game. In the back row (left to right) is exchange student Kinga Vidor (her escort will be Caylob Alcock), seniors Alli VanBrandt (escorted by Sam Cool), Larissa Elliott (escorted by Clayton Borton), Samantha Wright (escorted by JJ Elarton) and Justis McCowan (escorted by Austin Gilson), and exchange student Rebecca Rosenberger (escorted by Garrett Smith). Front row freshman court member Allie Kaiser (escorted by Anthony Thomas), sophomore Marlee Blaker (escorted by Nate Elarton) and junior Cheyenne Stone (escorted by Dominick Sell).
  • Front.park.lights
    GETTING READY—Jerad Gleckler pounds nails to secure a string of holiday lights on the side of the Wakefield Park concession stand while other members of the Volunteer Club and others hold them in place. The volunteers showed up Sunday afternoon to string lights at the park. The decorating project will continue this Sunday. Denise Walsh is in charge of the effort this year.

2002.06.12 Call him Johnny Applejack

Written by David Green.


Remember that famous figure from American history who almost always went barefoot, wore a sort of dress made out of old burlap bags, wore his cooking pot on his head, and—everywhere he went—planted apple seeds?

I read about John Chapman (Johnny Appleseed) last week in a book by Michael Pollan called The Botany of Desire. Pollan has a theory that plants use humans to improve their lot just as humans use plants to improve theirs.

One of the four plants Pollan writes about is the apple tree and he covers that via the life of Johnny Appleseed.

My image of Johnny Appleseed was of a man who traveled across Ohio and Indiana planting seeds everywhere he went. I now know that his work wasn’t nearly as random as that.

Chapman stocked up on seeds in western Pennsylvania every fall by sifting through the mash left over from cider making. A bushel of apple seed was sufficient to plant about 300,000 trees.

Starting in the late 1700s, Chapman would head west with his seed into the frontier which at that time was anything across the Ohio River. Chapman didn’t just toss seeds here and there; he planted nurseries. He’d buy some land, plant rows of seed, hire a local youngster to watch over it, then head farther inland.

He turned out to be a very shrewd developer. Somehow, he seemed to know where the next wave of settlers would travel, and when they arrived, he would have two or three-year-old apple trees to sell.

That’s not the whole story, of course. Like the apple, says Pollan, Johnny Appleseed has been sweetened beyond recognition.

Chapman is said to be a truly eccentric American folk hero. He mostly lived outdoors. He was a vegetarian and he considered it cruel to ride a horse or cut down a tree. He went from cabin to cabin visiting pioneers, handing out religious tracts and offering to present “the freshest news from Heaven.”

To break into the Appleseed myth, you could start with this: You don’t plant apple trees from seed, at least not if you want something to eat.

When Chapman arrived, there were nurseries in what would soon become the state of Ohio. They offered grafted trees that would produce edible fruit. Chapman didn’t believe in grafting (only God can improve the apple), but his trees were the popular ones, even though they mostly fostered “spitters”—fruit too sour to eat.

Eating? These apples were for drinking. As Pollan puts it, Johnny Appleseed brought the gift of alcohol to the frontier. Aside from water, cider (and its unrefrigerated later stages) was the only drink available.

The Bible warned of the temptation of the grape, but there was no caution about the apple. Actually, the apple isn’t even mentioned by name in the Garden of Eden tale. Some scholars think it must have been the pomegranate since apples didn’t thrive in that region of the world.

Henry Thoreau writes how the history of the apple tree in North American mirrors that of the human settlers. They both came across the ocean from Europe and proceeded to change. An early settler in Ohio was as different from an Englishman as a Macintosh is from a Newtown Pippin.

Apples are eager to do business with humans, Pollan says, and Chapman made it all possible. Humans got their applejack; the apples got thousands of miles of new habitat.

Mixing with the native crab apple, these offspring of the original domesticated apple (from the mountains of Kazakhstan) produced hundreds of new varieties.

It was an apple orgy that went on for decades. They adjusted to the new climate, the new soil and the hours of sunlight to produce an entirely new American fruit.

Some of you may wish to raise a toast to John Chapman. Myself, I’m heading for the refrigerator to wash off a Gala. It’s by no means a great apple, but what can you expect on a warm day in June.

    – June 12, 2002

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