The fresh smell of apple flower petals rolled over the countryside and wrapped our farmhouse in spring. Honeybees buzzed about, and their humming could be heard at a distance as they engulfed our small orchard trees, pollinating each blossom. Below, in the pens, the distinct sound of our newborn calves carried through the yard as they awaited their morning breakfast. High in the loft, barn kittens watched from the haymow entrance as their mother traversed the yard hunting for field mice.
Inside the house, I was busily whisking milk replacer and getting ready to walk out the cellar door. It was feeding time and I knew the young calves would be crying without end for their breakfast. Moving quickly, I carried the two buckets of milk and made my way to the pens to feed them. No sooner did I get to the edge of the barn than I saw a familiar truck pull up in the driveway atop of the hill which overlooked the barn. From the open window of the white pickup, my grandfather watched as I moved across the yard. From the passenger side, I could see my grandmother also looking on in interest. Neither seemed in a hurry to get out of the vehicle; instead, they were entertained by my hurried pace as I neared the pens.
When I reached the enclosure, the two calves headbutted each other to get to the pails. Climbing inside, I nudged them apart and began to feed them their milk. They drank vigorously as their noses almost became part of their own mouths. By the time they finished the last drop of milk, they resorted to scooting the buckets across the pen with their heads stuck inside. Smiling for a moment, I quickly wrestled the buckets back from them before their sheer weight destroyed the plastic pails. Grabbing the last bucket, I looked up and saw my grandmother who was standing on the opposite side of the fence.
“Those young calves were hungry,” she said. She smiled as she watched me make my way out of the pen. As I did, petals fell over my shoulders from a blossoming Macintosh tree which also had honeybees buzzing about. “Watch out for those bees, Michael. You know I am allergic to them, and you might be, too!” she proclaimed as she pointed to the flying insects. “You know, that old tree reminds me of a story,” my grandmother said as she patted one of calves on the head.
Donbridge was known for its general store and for its many oddities that seemed to attract business from all reaches of the northeast. For that reason alone, it was no surprise that they were known for selling fruit from all over the world.
Tilly Masterson moved to Donbridge in the late 1800s and brought with her a unique gift, one which people said was taught to her by a witch long before she came to the town. Tilly had the ability to work with birds in a manner most would not believe.
Each year, before the great winter migration took place, Tilly would take to the forest and feed the birds. As she did, she attached a note to the feet of each one and months later these same birds would return to Donbridge. In their claws, they would each return with a different fruit from around the world.
Tilly would amass so much fruit that she would open a fruit stand each spring and keep it open until the last day of May. Folks from all over the region would come to her and purchase fruit. What was never clear was whom the notes were for, but mystery was always the way of Donbridge and to that end no one really knew what was written on the notes. But each year, without fail, the fruit would arrive, delicious and available for all to enjoy from the migratory birds who carried it home.
When my grandmother finished, we watched overhead as a flock of birds flew toward a high tree. As the last birds went to make their roost, an object fell from the sky toward my grandmother’s head. And right before it hit her, my grandfather reached out and grabbed it. Opening his hand, he found a mandarin with a leaf still upon the stem. “I guess Tilly is still getting her fruit supply,” my grandmother said as she began to peel the orange fruit. She shared it amongst the three of us while I was left to wonder as I ate the orange where it had been on its travels.
Mom’s Fruit Salad
1/4 watermelon cut into bite-size wedges
3 peeled mandarin or orange slices
1 cantaloupe melon, scooped
1 cup of blueberries
1 cup blackberries
1 cup strawberries, sliced
2 sliced kiwis
1 cup of cherries, sliced
Toss fruit together in a bowl. Slice lemon and squeeze over the salad. Chill for 2 hours. Serve with a dollop of plain or vanilla yogurt or whipped cream.