With phrases like “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” apples are in high demand. It is a good thing that they are so readily available across the country. Growing up, my neighbors even had an apple tree… although it produced the sickliest looking apples I ever had the privilege of avoiding eating. Thankfully, there are plenty of delicious apple tree and apple tree orchards across the nation. What kind saint do we have to thank for having the foresight to give up all over earthly pleasures to wander the country with a metal pot on his head and a bag full of seeds at his side? His name was John Chapman but he is better known as Johnny Appleseed.
The image that I picture of Johnny Appleseed is an amiable man wandering across the country with a whistle and bounce to his step. But in preparing to celebrate this holiday by eating apple desserts, wandering through the gardening section of Loews, and learning about John Chapman, I discovered that for Johnny life was not all the beautiful picture that Disney painted it out to be. I have separated this next segment in to what I call “Johnny Appleseed: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly”
The Good: Johnny was a kind soul. He was a vegetarian because he cared for animals so much. Once when building a fire, he noticed that mosquitoes were flying and dying in the flames. He put out the fire because he did not want comfort if it meant hurting one of God’s creatures. I know there are a lot of strict vegetarians out there and while it is not for me, I respect your decision to make that choice. Yet I think that even the strongest animal activists out there would be willing to put out a fire on a cold night in the woods to save a few mosquitoes.
Johnny was also a minister. He went around spreading the Swedenborgianism religious movement. When I first read that I had to double check, but it is in fact a real religious movement based on worshiping Jesus Christ. I have to admit that it probably would have gotten much bigger if they had picked a slightly easier name to remember like the Quakers or Mormons or Muslims or Catholics or Protestants. In fact, I think that if you are planning your own religion it should be limited to three or less syllables. Sorry for those of you that practice in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster as you do not make the syllable cut off.
He did not actually walk around tossing seeds willy-nilly like the Parable of the Sower (since he was a minister and it is a Sunday, I think it is acceptable to get a bit of religion up in this house). He planted nurseries, built fences around them, and left them in care of someone in the town while returning year to year to check on the status. What a guy!
The Bad: He was an eccentric fellow. He wore a metal tin on his head that also served as a pot for cooking his meals. He rarely wore shoes and was often found wandering around near naked. That is not exactly the site I would want to wander upon now a days while checking out the gardening section at Home Depot. As a part of his religion, he believed dealing with pain and suffering in this life led to more happiness in his afterlife. As such, he put himself through awful conditions with a bright smile on his face. Living over 80 years of his life with this doctrine of suffering, I sure hope that he was hooked up with an eternity of awesomeness and a pair of Air Jordans.
Keeping up with the notion of bad, a basketball conference in Ohio was named the Johnny Appleseed Conference from the years 1961 to 1977. Over that history, the baddest team of them all was the Crestline school accumulating a 43 wins-140 losses. I do not think that they would have made the March Madness Tournament…
The Ugly: Johnny Appleseed had 99 problems (NSFW) and a “woman”
ain’t one was two of them. You figure a man who was so involved with charity and had some wealth (owned 1200 acres of land at his death) would have better success with the ladies. Even a man that dedicated his life to bettering the world around him had girl problems. Finding love is never easy but as seems to happen so many times in my own life comes down to timing. It is about being in the right place at the right time and not arriving a day too late at the doorstep of your dream girl. Johnny did love a woman and intended to propose. He bought a ring and went to propose only to find that she had been proposed to by another guy just a day before. Talk about bad timing.
Heart broken from his first failure at women, he did the 1830s version of finding love on Craigslist. He met a girl that was alone and had no one to care for her. He decided to become her benefactor with the plan to marry her when she became of age. Of course, he visited her unexpectedly one day and found her shacking (this clip actually gets pretty intense but here is a funnier, shorter version of the same idea) up with another man… well, she was holding his hand but same difference. All of this failure in love turned Johnny a bitter man towards women, claiming that some women were deceivers and not the amiable people that pursuing men thought them to be. I guess even for a folk legend love can still be ugly.
Summary: However you want to remember the man, the legend, Johnny Appleseed is up to you. As a person, he was a culmination of his good, his bad, and his ugly. As a folk hero, he is cherished with every bite of a Red Delicious or a Granny Smith. We can only hope that our legacy is marked by something as good as an apple and not something as slimy as a worm.