An Apple a Day…

By  |  11 Comments

Disclaimer: This story is a reflection of a personal account and may differ from the perspectives of other parties. Some names and identifying details have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals. 

I’ve been doing my writing in the early hours of the morning, and a quiet house seems to be an open house for memories, reflections and epiphanies to congregate before we rise and seize the day.

On this particular morning, I was greeted by thoughts of a story my grandfather, Pa, once told me:

My Pa grew up during the Great Depression. His father took his own life, thus left my 10-year-old Pa and his 12-year-old brother Oscar as the impressionable young “men” of the house to look after their mother, three sisters and the farm chores.

At school, there was a bully named Ed who Pa described as mean as a snake. Ed was kicked off the bus on a weekly basis for starting fights, once punched a referee for making a bad call on him during a basketball game and ultimately seemed to take pleasure making life apprehensive for his schoolmates.

One of Pa’s sisters, Jane, started taking a liking to ol’ Ed. Of course, Pa was adamantly against the very idea of her being associated with the town menace.

Pa said he would steal glimpses of Ed eating his lunch. Surges of jealously would hit as he watched Ed eat fresh pears and apples, often gifting Jane some of his stash. All the while, Pa sat with an empty stomach thinking, “How is it fair that a scoundrel like Ed has a plate full of food, and here I am, a hardworking, God-fearing boy who goes hungry?” He confessed he often pondered why life seemed to treat him so unfairly, but had dealt mischievous Ed plenty of food and a girlfriend from a respectable family.

Fast-forward 80 years later.

I was sitting with my great-uncle Ed (yes, he married Jane) at Christmastime. Ed was now in his mid-90s, and his beloved Jane had since passed as well as my Pa. And this particular Christmas, Ed tells me a story:

He says, “Jane was so good to me, and so was her mama for letting her date me. Did you know they were the first people to give me a birthday card?”

I shook my head. I didn’t know that.

“Yeah, I was in the middle of 13 kids, so it was too much to remember birthdays and such,” he continues. “We had fruit orchards, so I was mainly a working hand around our place. Things were hard during the Depression, so only the oldest half got to eat. They wanted to make sure they stayed strong. Then the younger ones would get the leftovers so they wouldn’t grow too weak, but since I was in the middle, I went hungry most of the time. But every night, I’d sneak up to the attic where my mama let the fruit ripen. I’d spend the whole night sneaking up those rickety stairs because if I woke my mama or daddy up, I’d get a thrashing. I’d take one step, wait a couple minutes, then take another. When I’d finally reach the attic, I’d only take enough to get me by until the next day. I’d just wait to do my eating at school, so I wouldn’t get caught.”

All that time, Pa shook his head as to why everything seemed to fall in Ed’s favor, when in fact, that couldn’t have been further from the truth.

He didn’t know the reason Ed was so mean was because he didn’t get attention at home. He didn’t know he took a liking to Jane because she offered a love he never knew. He didn’t know his own mama served as the nurturing mother figure Ed never had – and he didn’t know each of those shiny apples came with sleepless nights of creeping up the stairs.

Ed and Pa ended up being the best of friends throughout their life. But I still think Pa died never knowing the real story behind those shiny apples.

I hope “an apple a day” takes on a new, compassionate meaning to you as you recall this lunchroom confession. This goes out to all the Pas and Eds of the world. May we love one another as if we already know their side of the story.

kat cowleyAbout the Author

Kat Cowley hails from Wartrace, where her father recently retired from the Bedford County Farm Bureau. She is a personal development writer and workshop creator who prefers the back porch storytime format. For similar material, check out Week to Strong, her book of weekly reflections.



  1. Leanne Alsup

    September 19, 2015 at 9:28 pm

    Carl and Roberta were my Great Uncle and Aunt…the way you have portrayed his Mama, our Big Mama is inappropriate. She was a hard working, hard loving woman who loved all her kids, grandkids,and great grandkids. She lived to be 104 years old and was a precious woman. Ornery at times, but with that many children, I do believe I would have been too. To portray her as not being nurturing is an insult to my family. Times were hard back then, like you and I will hopefully never experience….But…the Love was there!!

    • Laurie Alsup

      September 21, 2015 at 8:27 pm


      • Jessy Yancey

        September 22, 2015 at 8:20 am

        Hi Laurie, Glenna and Leanne,

        Thank you for your feedback. We certainly did not intend for this essay submitted by a freelancer writer to cause any concern or negativity for anyone. We were not aware the names used were real, and full names were not used. I am not speaking on behalf of the writer, but I believe the intentions were to show that there is more to everyone than meets the eye, and Carl was portrayed as a beloved family member. We apologize for any conflict this story caused, and I have shared your comments with the writer.

        Thanks for reading Tennessee Home & Farm and for sharing your concern. We appreciate hearing from all of our readers.

        Jessy Yancey
        editor, Tennessee Home & Farm

        • Laurie Alsup

          September 22, 2015 at 12:46 pm

          I’m still upset but thank you

  2. Laurie Alsup

    September 21, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I was just alerted to this article. OMG the author,Kat Cowley, really missed the mark on this one! I think she owes an apology to the entire Alsup family as most of us are quite upset by her words. The “town menace” really? I think NOT! My grandmother unnurturing …totally ridiculous! Apologize soon for your story is TOTAL BS!

  3. Glenna Alsup

    September 21, 2015 at 8:21 pm

    Your article implies that my Uncle Carl’s family, and therefore my father’s- the Alsups- was not respectable. I’m insulted, and I believe my sweet Uncle Carl and Aunt Roberta would be too. And, I feel certain my Uncle Carl would not like you writing that his mother, my grandmother, was neither nurturing nor loving.

    • Laurie Alsup

      September 21, 2015 at 8:25 pm

      Agreed & well said!

  4. Trey Alsup

    September 22, 2015 at 6:53 am

    I liked the story.i think the recollection got embellished a little from the mouth of 90 year old Apple thief.

  5. Kat Cowley

    September 22, 2015 at 9:47 am

    To the Alsup family or anyone else affected by the article,

    As the author, I truly apologize for all negative feelings that were experienced as a result of this story. A major lesson learned for me is to use fake first names (I thought it would be anonymous enough without last names) when recounting a story told by a particular party.

    Please know my intentions were to share a story that really touched my heart. I shared it as it was shared with me, and did not know any of Carl’s family personally (nor do I today).

    Another lesson learned is to include a disclaimer at the end of “old timer” reflection I do in the future- “This story is a reflection of a personal account and may differ from the perspectives of other parties.”

    Just as a writer will interview an individual and write their responses, those responses can-and often do-conflict with the perspectives of others.

    While the article can only be changed online, I’m sure the editor will allow the changing of names & addition of a perspective disclaimer via the online medium.

    My true apologies for not implementing these safeguards originally and I do value the perspectives of your memories.

    If you would be interested, I would love to write a second article based on your collected perspectives of your family. A feel-good article based on a positive life lesson via your memories.

    Kat Cowley

  6. Susan Ray

    September 22, 2015 at 12:14 pm

    As a friend of the Alsup family I am very upset to read this “perspective” . Carl’s Mother (Big Mama) was a wonderful loving woman. She welcomed me into her home many times. The above article is a falsehood. This is a story that has been enhanced with the passing of time. The perspectives have nothing to do with it. The Alsup family have true and accurate memories.

  7. Lura F. Massey

    September 22, 2015 at 12:38 pm

    Let me just say there are. little if any accurate facts in this article. Carl Alsup was my mother’s brother. I’ll give you the facts, not my “perspective.” My grandmother was an exceptional individual who gave birth to 14 children in the space of 18 years. Three of these children died in infancy. She worked tirelessly for her children from sun up to sundown in an era without modern appliances. She was much beloved by her 11 living offspring, her 26 grandchildren and numerous great grandchildren. There was never a time any of them went hungry. They grew up on a prosperous farm with orchards and while they were a rowdy bunch there was not a bully among them. They were a respectable family or Ms. Cowley’s respectable family would not have allowed my dear aunt Roberta to go near my uncle Carl. There were no stairs, rickety or otherwise in my grandmother’s house, but it did have an attic. Birthday cards were probably not a priority and way down the line from winter coats, shoes, medicine, etc. Ms. Cowley I know your family, I played with your relatives of my age when I was a child including the sweet little boy who died of spinal meningitis when he was 10 years old. My uncle loved him beyond words and mourned him years after his death and of course I won’t mention his name. My relatives and I miss our grandmother, there will never ever be another like her, and it is hurtful to hear her denigrated and described as unnurturing. I don’t believe we want you to write an article for us. We don’t have “perspectives,” only loving memories. I suggest you take your writing talents, whatever they are, and turn to fiction since your success, if you have any, will be there. I appreciate your apology however politically correct you tried to make it.


    Lura F. Massey, Bigmama’s granddaughter, daughter of Nettie, niece of Clara, Arlie, Lillard, Annie, Carl, Johnny, Mamie, Prentice, & Hylan all deceased, and their only living sibling Lura Clark. I love you all, I’m proud of all of you.

Leave a Comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.

Stay Connected

Made in Tennessee giveaways, exciting events, delicious recipes and more delivered straight to your inbox.