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Apple Orchard Combat

A fall tradition guaranteed to blow off steam and maybe get you arrested.

By Walter RheinPublished 5 years ago 5 min read
Photo by Kari Shea on Unsplash

There is nothing more satisfying than visiting an apple orchard on a brisk, autumn day.

You reach down to collect a mushy, worm eaten discard lying in a wet puddle under a tree. Cock your arm, let fly, and watch as the projectile explodes into a mist of apple sauce and seeds as it connects with the jaw of some close high school buddy or grade school pal (or enemy).

Photo by Muhammad Taufik on Unsplash

These days all the youngsters are playing high-tech games like paintball.


Meh. I've tried paintball a few times and believe me it has nothing on the raw adrenaline of a good old fashioned game of apple orchard combat.

Back when I was a kid, we'd click off the old wireless where we'd been listening to the latest episode of Little Orphan Annie, get on our penny-farthings (or saddle up the horse), and head down to the orchard for a REAL game of intensity and adrenaline.

Also, apple orchard combat is a lot cheaper, heck, if you know where the hole in the fence line is that allows you to sneak into the orchard—it's free!

Photo by Haut Risque on Unsplash

Usually we'd get a pack of eight to 10 boys. There were always a few that you hung out with, but you didn't really like and only invited so that you could pelt them with mushy apples.

After a short argument about whether Ty Cobb was a better player than Joe Jackson, we'd roll up our cuffs and sneak among the rows of trees.

There was always a gentleman's agreement that you couldn't pick a fresh apple from the bough because that would sting too bad and it would make the farmer madder than he was likely already going to be. But if an apple happened to fall as you were belly-crawling under intense fire, well, that was just fortune smiling on you.

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First your hands would get wet, then your knees as you felt around for mushy apples. It was good to hold one in your throwing hand and two in your non-throwing hand just to be ready for ambush.

I'm sure all the whipper snappers today would formalize this game to death if they grew enough of a set to start playing it. They'd probably carry satchels, or wear safety goggles, and film the whole thing so they could put it up on Youtube later that day.

When I was a kid, we lived in the moment. There wasn't any mamby-pamby instant replay. If you drilled a kid in the face with a mushy apple, you better watch it because that moment played out like a Polaroid. It was a one shot deal, and when it ended it was lost to history.

Except for the sticky wet spot on your target's cheek and the enduring concussion.

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Sometimes we'd play capture the flag, sometimes it would be annihilation. Usually we had all kinds of grand plans or schemes that were interrupted by the angry cries of old Mean MacGreggor.

"Hey you kids, I told you to stay off my property!"

Then he'd shoot his shotgun into the air a few times because he was a raving lunatic, and we'd SCATTER man! We HIGH-TAILED it out of there because we weren't really sure if he would really kill us or not.

Let me tell you something, there is NOTHING in the world like being 12 and sticky with apple juice getting chased out of an orchard at dusk while some senile old mad man pursues you with a shotgun.

But as high as you were, that was the absolute BEST moment to launch a sneak attack on that kid you don't like, and if you could hit him right in the chaos of the last volley of apples and shotgun pellets, a kind of warmth would spring to light in your belly that would keep you chuckling in contentment for days.

Seriously, for DAYS, sometimes WEEKS! It was like being born again.

Photo by The Honest Company on Unsplash

In those waning moments of chaos, the stupid ones ran back towards the hole in the fence, but that was a mistake because a bottleneck would ensue and the farmer could get them if he weren't running around in circles shooting at shadows.

The best tactic was to head to the corn maze, because sure as heck senile old MacGreggor knew better than to go in THERE after dark. Heck, there was probably a Minotaur in there somewhere!

So, you'd sneak into the corn maze and hunker down and wait for the light to dim and the shots to stop firing. You'd be alone at this point because it was every kid for himself. We respected our laws back in the day, well, the laws of the jungle, the human laws we could take or leave.

I still think that.

Photo by Spenser on Unsplash

You'd see the flashing red and blue lights of the cops start to flicker among the leaves. Then you'd hear MacGreggor's nasally voice complaining, followed by the exasperated voice of the police officer explaining to MacGreggor that he couldn't go shooting people and that this was the last time he'd be told.

That's when it got funny, because MacGreggor would get indignant and that would make the police even more obstinate about not searching the corn maze.

"I'm not going in there, there's probably a Minotaur in there!"

And by the time they were done arguing it was so dark that the red and blue flashing lights were the only illumination and it looked just beautiful coming through the dry corn stalks in the darkness.

Photo by Milada Vigerova on Unsplash

So a little while later it would be quiet and dark and you could sneak out of there. If you came by bike you collected it. If you'd come on a horse and you were smart, you sent the animal back home the moment you arrived to avoid evidence of your presence (horses always find their way home).

You'd belly crawl back through the maze, jog home, and climb in through the bedroom window. Dad would be passed out already from his latest round of binge drinking, so you didn't even have to worry about making noise. You could just lay there in bed and wait for the adrenaline to cycle through and leave you perfectly exhausted and sound asleep.

Apple orchard combat. To this day, those early autumn days were the best moments of my life.

Those were the good old days, but maybe, like those fading Polaroids, they were a one-shot deal and the moment has passed.

Photo by Craig Whitehead on Unsplash


About the Creator

Walter Rhein

I'm a small press novelist. Shoot me an email if you want to discuss writing in any capacity, or head over to my web page [email protected]

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    Walter RheinWritten by Walter Rhein

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