Updated: Oct 27, 2019
Charlie stepped on the running board and climbed aboard the carriage holding tight to the bench. Before he could get settled, Ginny launched ahead and they left the factory in a blur.
“Hold on!” Walter yelped, “the path to the orchard can get a little bumpy.” The carriage kicked up dust as it rolled along and it tickled Charlie’s nose, but he never let go. The cool breeze lifted his hat and the thought of losing it made him nervous. He took a deep breath, held tight, and snagged the hat just before it flew off. He giggled at his good reflexes and they laughed all the way to the orchard.
“This is fun!” Charlie called out and Walter was content to see his new friend happy.
A sweet scent filled the air when they approached the harvested apples. Multicolored goats ran around with nets catching apples as they were tossed from the trees.
“When the nets are full the goats roll them into the baskets. Then the apples are taken to large tubs where the twin goats, Bobby and Betty, divide them into juice apples and eat’n apples.” Walter said with a deep breath.
Ginny chimed in, “The juice is poured into brown glass jugs and the apples are put into crates.”
“Where are they going?” Charlie asked as a passel of 'possums trotted along juggling jugs of juice on their heads. A burly goat helped load them onto a cart, while pygmy pigs slid the crates up a ramp and onto a wagon.
“The apple juice is taken to the cooling barn for storage and the apples are send to market.” Walter said. “Whew, that’s a lot to say, I’m thirsty!”
“It’s a team effort!” a voice called out.
They turned to see two little feet waddling forward beneath a haze of steaming mugs. Walter waved and said, “Hi, Fred!”
Fred was the largest ‘possum Charlie had ever seen. His nose was bright pink and his tiny black eyes glistened in the moisture emanating from the mugs. His smile revealed sharp rows of white teeth, but Charlie felt a friendly demeanor. “Here you go! Apple juice tasting time!” Fred said as he handed them the mugs of warmed juice. Then he dropped a cinnamon stick into each mug and gave it a quick stir.
Walter sat on the buggy and sipped his juice, but Charlie wasn’t sure if he’d like it. He watched Walter close his eyes and breathe out a sigh of delight. The spicy scent drew Charlie toward the mug and he finally decided to take a sip. He felt the juice sliding down his throat and reveled in the sweet warm liquid.
“This is great!” Charlie said and took another sip. He hadn’t realize how cold he was and now he radiated from the heated juice.
“Glad you like it.” Fred said, “Gotta run!” Then he saluted Charlie and ran off to direct the harvest team. “Push harder, Tully!” Fred yelped at a tiny ‘possum who had fallen behind. Fred moved with the speed of a gazelle and gave the little guy a hand with his load.
Walter looked up at a tree that was loaded with ripe apples and Charlie followed his gaze. A head popped out from among the leaves and called out, “Hey ya, Walter! Who’s your friend?”
“This is Charlie.” Walter called up to the goat. “Charlie, this is Bunkie. He’s a tree climbing goat and a great bouncing British Alpine!”
Bunkie hopped from branch to branch tossing down apples for the others to catch in their nets. Then he bounced down the tree and landed on Walter’s head.
Bunkie peered down at Walter with a mischievous grin. “Wanna BOUNCE?” he asked and leapt up to the first branch of the tree. Walter rolled off the buggy and landed on Minnie Goat’s back.
Minnie was anything but small. She had a coat of soft white hair and a short wide body.
“Whoa there, Cowboy!” Minnie said. “Looks like Bunkie’s got the bounce on you today!” Then she gave him a gentle lift to the ground.
She looked up at Charlie and explained, “Walter is a world class bouncing pumpkin and Bunkie always challenges him to a bouncing contest every chance he gets... but Walter always wins.”
Walter looked up at Bunkie and yelled, “You bet, Bunkie!” Then turned to Charlie, “I’ll be right back.”
He bounced up to the second branch of the apple tree and before Bunkie could react, Walter was zooming up the tree.
Charlie clapped and cheered for Walter at every bounce. The gang gathered for the game and began to rally. Yells went up from the crowd as they leapt from branch to branch across the obstacle course.
Walter readied for the winning bounce when a loud crack reverberated through the trees. Walter’s branch broke and he tumbled toward the ground. He was caught by a young elastic branch which tossed him up and onto the back of the buggy. He hit so hard Charlie was launched up from the bench and came down next to Walter.
SNAP! The harness broke free from Ginny and the buggy rolled away toward the field and the forest below. Picking up speed, Walter and Charlie held on tight. Bumping and sloshing around, they careened down the rocky terrain. Charlie’s knuckles ached and turned white from the strain. They screamed with one LOUD voice and as they sailed by a patch of tall grass a flock of quails took flight. One bird bumped into Charlie and knocked his hat into the air. Charlie watched in despair as it fluttered away.
Deep into the woods the buggy sped until finally hitting a boulder. The impact flipped them up into the air and the world spun as they tumbled through the branches. Charlie remembered later that it was as if time stopped. The cold wind felt like fire on his cheeks as he closed his eyes expecting the worst.
KA PLUNK! And they came to a soft landing in Uncle Gunther’s gigantic leaf pile. As they sank deep into the moist autumn leaves, the smell of dirt and leaf mold filled the air.
Stunned and out of breath, Charlie lay there, numb. Slowly he brushed the leaves aside and began to roll down the pile in search of Walter.
“Walter, Walter, are you there? Where are you?” he called.
“I’m here!” Walter bounced up through the leaves. “We won!” Walter exclaimed. “We both won the bouncing contest!”
Excitement gripped them and they laughed so hard, tears formed in their eyes.
“We were launched into the biggest bounce ever!” Walter said. “It‘ll never be forgotten. I think we broke the farm record!”
He folded his vines behind his head and leaned back into the leaves. He was happy to enjoy the moment.