EDITOR'S COLUMN: Apple snitchin' time in Oak Harbor

The best apple I’ve had this summer is the one I snitched last week from Dorothy Neil’s orchard. It was small, rather bumpy transparent, and it had blemishes that would never pass the scrutiny of a grocery store produce manager, but it tasted sweet nonetheless, all the more so because it was snitched. It also helped that I got away clean, not an eye in the universe witnessed my crime, unlike what had happened to me a few days earlier.

I was walking to the post office when a tree laden with apples caught my eye. The apples were tempting, but traffic on the roadway was heavy. Should I risk it? Of course, so I leaned over a steep embankment and plucked an apple from the tree, only to turn around and see that a big ol’ black SUV had slowed to a virtual stop, and the driver was eyeing me suspiciously. Caught in the act! The driver slowly pulled away and I imagined him dialing 911 on his cell phone. The police station was only three blocks away. So a gobbled a few bites from the apple and threw the evidence away. I could barely taste the thing because you can’t enjoy a snitched apple if you’re feeling guilty and listening for a police siren. It was a totally unsatisfying snitching experience, which propelled me later to grab one of Dorothy Neil’s apples in the tree next to the News-Times office.

One thing I tried to teach the kids when they were little was the subtle difference between snitching and stealing. We used to snitch apples and cherries on our walks to the beach. Snitching, I explained, consists of liberating fruit from an untended tree, fruit that was produced by God, not a dedicated orchardist. Fruit that would otherwise go to waste and that requires a minimum of trespassing to obtain. And of course you have to get away with it, otherwise you’ll be branded a thief by those who see the world in the unforgiving colors of black and white.

Years later I learned that the kids had indeed been caught snitching cherries from the yard of the mean old witch who lived next door, and her even meaner, even older, even witchier, boyfriend. They chastised those innocent girls so thoroughly that they never went near that cherry tree again. Although sympathetic to their story, I was secretly pleased that snitching had resulted in such vivid shared childhood memories. The world would be a poorer place without the mean old witches who live next door. I’d go snitch some cherries just to get even, but they’ve built so many houses around the old tree that it’s now unsnitchable.

Snitching used to be common until people were trapped in automobiles. You can’t tell a transparent from a gravenstein at 60 mph, let alone snitch one. Get out of your car this summer at least long enough to snitch one apple. I guarantee it’ll be sweeter than anything you can buy for $1.49 a pound at Safeway.

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