Owl Meat's Tipsy Tuesdays: Johnny Appleseed
If you asked my friends, they'd tell you I'm something of a history buff. But I've never fully researched the tale of Johny Appleseed. Owl Meat Gravy to the rescue!
In what I think is one of his better guest posts, Owl Meat delves deep into the core of the man, the myth, the legend:
If you wander around Baltimore wearing a pot as a hat and spreading your seeds, you're a promiscuous crackhead. In the Nineteenth Century you would be Johnny Appleseed.
I am pleased to present the first Tipsy Tuesday Unsung Hero – Johnny Appleseed.
The myth that we teach children is that Johnny Appleseed (John Chapman) travelled across the land planting apple trees from seeds. Mmm... apples: wholesome, delicious, and nutritious. The apple is a symbol of the Righteous American Way: Apple-cheeked (chaste yet fertile), apple pie (true American), and Satan's sin-candy. Strike that last one ...
John Chapman did exist. He planted apple trees in nurseries in western Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana. The apples were cider apples for making hard cider. His agents sold the trees to settlers.
Because you can't grow good apple trees from seeds, the manic seed tosser image is false.
There is a perception that hard cider is an unusual use for apples, but in the 1800s it was the primary use. Fermenting cider to make an alcoholic beverage has been around for millennia.
Because water was unsafe to drink, fermentation of cider was a way to preserve it for the whole year, not just to get ye olde swerve on. Even if you kept fermentation to a minimum, it is amusing to think of people drinking hard cider from breakfast on.
He didn't wear a pot on his head, but he was a bona fide eccentric. My favorite biographical detail is that he avoided relations with women, because he thought that abstinence would allow him to have two female spirits in Heaven. You dawg!
I guess the true story of Johnny Appleseed would blow kids' minds, so a more wholesome fiction was created. The pot on the head part does make you question his sobriety.
Let's end with a live performance of "Johnny Appleseed" by Joe Strummer and the Mescaleros. It breaks my heart every time. Cheers to you Joe and John Chapman.
(Photo courtesy of enchantedlearning.com)