By Wayne Erbsen
Why is it that when you drop a slice of bread that you’ve just slathered with peanut butter, it always lands peanut- butter-side down? Maybe it’s the same cosmic forces at work that cause the best apples to be at the very top of the tree. That’s the predicament I found myself in yesterday as I contemplated how I was going to get some juicy apples down from 35 feet up a tree that was too skinny to climb.
But wait! I’m getting ahead of myself. It all started this fall weekend when I was up at our remote off-the-grid log cabin on back side of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Madison County, North Carolina. For the last month or so, I’d been eyeing a forlorn, old-timey apple tree that was just on the edge of our mountain property. The house that once stood near it was long gone, but the tree stubbornly lived on. It had fallen down years before, but that hardly slowed it down. Instead, the tree produced hundreds of sprouts that yielded apples that were firm, tart, and lasted through the fall and winter. Other than imagining that the apples were some old-time variety, I had no idea what kind they were. All I knew is that I had to have some.
After I’d cleaned the tree of the low-hanging fruit, I spied the best, plump apples at the tip-top of the tree. Without a ladder, I decided to use my noggin. What could I use to grab those applies? I went rummaging around my tool shed and finally found something I thought would work. It was an old tin water ladle with the handle broken off. I was glad I hadn’t thrown it away. With a bit of ingenuity, I managed to screw the cup of the ladle to a stick, and hose-clamped the stick to the end of a long extension pole. I was then able to snake my new apple grabber through the tangled mass of tree branches. One by one, I was got those beautiful apples down. I have to say, I don’t remember when I’ve had so much fun. Getting an apple with my grabber produced the same thrill as catching a big trout. If you’re a fisherman, you know that feeling. I was giddy as a schoolboy on the first day of summer vacation.
Having the time of my life, of course, I started to sing. The first tune that that came to mind was June Apple. It’s really a great tune with that bouncy ,happy feeling you get on a cool, clear morning in the fall when the apples are ripe and ready to pick.
Note to banjo pickers: You can play this song using either or both fingerpicking or clawhammer style. A note with a single stem is a quarter note and two notes tied together are eighth notes. The tab gives you only the melody, so you can decorate it any way you like.
June Apple is written out in banjo tab in regular G tuning, gDGBD. Most fiddle players play it in the key of A, so you’ll need to capo up your banjo to the second fret and adjust your fifth string accordingly.