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Stories from Cummins Nursery

About Cummins >> A family business >>Stories >> Dad's Corner

This is a section of Cummins Nursery dedicated to stories (preferably in some way connected to fruit and/or farming). We are open to stories you send in as well!!!

Kicking Leaves in Mr. Gage's Orchard | The Drive from Kinmundy | The Yellow Transparent Orchard | The Spray Crew |Hoodlin' |Loading Reefers | Ben Davis | Thirsty Cider | Backyard Orchards | Dad, Peeling Apples | Little Pearl and the Hot Box


It was half a mile from the packin' shed back to the railroad, half a mile from the packin' shed back to the far west side of the home orchard. This morning I helped Ol' Burl at hoodlin' bushel baskets of apples from the back of the orchard in to the packin' shed.

Our hoodlin' wagon was a bran' new Sears 'n' Roebuck wagon, with shafts in front to take just one horse. Yellow shafts. Bright yellow shafts and yellow wheels and the wagon truck painted green. Wide flat bed to hold 70 bushel baskets of apples.

Ol' Dan was a dapple grey, white hair but lots of black spots on his skin underneath so he looked dappled, sort of splotchy like. Ol' Dan was twice as tall as I was and his back was as broad as two bushel baskets. When I tried to ride on Ol' Dan my legs would stick straight out, his back was so wide, and I had to hang on to his mane to keep from falling off. Ol' Burl let me drive the empty wagon every trip from the packin' shed back out to the orchard. Had to hold the reins tight in the morning, when Ol' Dan was feelin' his oats, but t'ords noon Ol' Dan just ambled along real slow, and sometimes Ol' Burl would have me slap the reins to get him movin' along.

Ol' Dan always knew when noontime was comin', when the noonday bell was about to ring. We'd have the wagon loaded with bushel baskets of striped Duchess of Oldenburg apples, 'way out at the back of the orchard, and Ol' Dan would commence to prance and shake his head. Ol' Burl would reach in his overall pocket and pull out his big ol' Seth Thomas watch. 

"Bout time to go in, Dan, 'bout time to go." Ol' Burl would pat his head, and Ol' Dan would sometimes nicker, and on the way in at noon, with a full wagonload of apples, 70 bushel baskets of Duchess apples, Ol' Dan would start walkin' faster and faster, and then break into a trot, he was so eager for his feed of oats.

We'd drop the wagon shafts there in the back of the packin' shed, and Ol' Burl and I would take Ol' Dan across the road to the waterin' trough. I'd pump it full of clear fresh water, and Ol' Dan would put his whole face down in the water and snort and snuff and blow big bubbles.

Ol' Dan enjoyed his lunch hour more than anyone. Ol' Burl 'ud take off Ol' Dan's bridle and harness and turn Ol' Dan loose in the near pasture with Ol' Rex, and the two big ol' dapple greys would nicker and nuzzle each other and toss their heads and then go trotting around the pasture and then Ol' Dan would lie down in the grass and roll over on his back, this way and that way, over and over again. And after a while he'd stop and kind of lie on his side with his head up and look as if he'uz thinking, "Now what did I do that for?" Ol' Dan would greet his workmate and do his trot and roll, and then crop grass for the rest of his noontime break.

Ol' Dan was our hoodlin' horse, a dapple grey twice as high as I was, and broad as two bushel baskets.

-- from The Orchard Remembered

Dr. James N. Cummins
Emeritus Professor of Pomology
Cornell University