The Black Cauldron
The apple trees in the back yard blossomed this week. That got me thinking about the apple tree across the field when I was a boy. That apple tree was the focus of the “big dare”. I grew up as the youngest of my family. I was also the youngest of the boys in my neighborhood. That is my excuse, or at least my explanation, as to why I was always so anxious to prove myself. That made me especially susceptible to the big dare.
We lived on what was then the outskirts of Green Bay’s west side. Just past our house it was all field to the west. But across the field to the north there was an old house. The house was where the witch lived. We had never met her, but we knew that she was a witch. It was simple deduction. There was a large black cauldron in her backyard. Obviously, the only use for a huge cauldron was to boil little boys. The guys and I speculated how many boys had met their fate in the black cauldron.
Right next to the black cauldron there was an apple tree. It was full of apples. They looked pretty tasty. Even at that young age I knew about forbidden fruit. I suppose that should have meant the story of Adam and Eve, but I think it was more likely the story of Hansel and Gretel that was on my mind. It wasn’t worth the risk of getting caught, because getting caught meant getting boiled.
I don’t remember whose idea it was. But one day while playing hide and seek in the tall grass somebody blurted out the big dare. Maybe we were hungry. I don’t even remember why everyone was looking at me and waiting for my response. I could prove I wasn’t scared if I went to the witch’s house and brought back a nice big apple for each of us. Of course, when it comes to considering any level of dare, the thing to do is to not think too hard. In fact, I probably didn’t think at all. I don’t remember answering, but I do remember heading across the field toward the witch’s house. “I would show them!” I thought.
About 100 yards from the apple tree I crouched down in the tall grass and sized up the situation. Everything was quiet. No one in site. I crept forward. Now I was at the edge of the backyard. The apple tree was only 10 feet away. I planned my way up the tree. There were big branches pretty low down. This was going to be easy. One last look and I made my break. I scampered up the tree with ease. I grabbed an apple and took a bite. It was delicious. I began stuffing apples in my sweatshirt.
“Good, aren’t they?” I looked down to see a man looking up at me. My heart dropped. “Don’t move”, he said and he headed to the garage. I turned to look back at my gang. Surely, they would be coming to my rescue. Instead, to my horror I saw them running away as fast as they could. The man returned with a ladder. He situated it under me. “You can have all the apples you want, but use the ladder. I don’t want you breaking any branches, or falling out and getting hurt.” He smiled and held the ladder steady for me. He helped me finish stuffing my shirt full of apples. “You want to make sure they all get one.” He smiled at me, patted me on the back and headed back into the house.
I’d like to say that was the start of a friendship, but I never went back. Somehow the adventure was gone. I wonder what they really used that black cauldron for?
His Peace,Deacon Dan