It was a busy day at the Fox Studios; and yet the employees looked forward to it. The interviewers, cameraman, technicians, all were in anticipation of the interview of the owners of AppleHound farm & products - most popular in Northern America. Their ciders, pie, juices, jams sold in millions. There was just something about their product as opposed to the others.
The interview was scheduled to go live in an hour and the founders - Arden Wilson & Mabel Wilson reported to the office. They were elegant siblings in their middle age, humble and amiable. They had brought bouquets and apple goodies for the working staff. They greeted everyone and acquainted themselves with the interview area and the owner of Fox Studios.
They seated themselves for the interview as their interviewer signaled 30 seconds till show time. 30, 29, 28….3,2 and 1!
“Welcome ladies & gentlemen to today’s episode of ‘Tycoon Talk’. Autumn is here & apart from the vibrant leaves, pumpkin spice, Halloween, another unconventional thing that comes to our mind is Apple Picking. It is an absolute favorite activity for people of all ages. For people residing in Toronto & other areas in close proximity, AppleHound Farms is an absolute favorite. Today we have the enigmatic sibling duo with us. Welcome to the show!! How are you both feeling today?”
“Thank you very much for the incredibly warm welcome. We’re doing good. How about you?” Arden answered.
“Likewise. How is the apple picking going on in your farm?”
“It’s a busy season - so we’re doing our best to accommodate as many people as we can. The prices are reasonable, the harvest is bountiful, it’s a pet friendly farm and there's a place to have fun activities with your friends and family.” replied Mabel.
“Wonderful! What more to expect from a top-selling farm! You said your space is pet-friendly… does that explain why the logo of your farm is a Dalmatian dog with apples instead of spots?”
“Well, that’s only a part of it. The logo has another symbolism. I’m not sure if you want to know.” Arden was uncertain and cast a glance to his sister, as if seeking her approval. Mabel assured him it will be okay.
The interviewer said “We would absolutely want to know that. This show is dedicated entirely for AppleHound. Please go ahead..”
“It was the year 1985…” Mabel started.
The crash of Air India 182 had stunned people across North America. It was hijacked and bombed mid-air near the West Coast, killing everyone on board. It was first of cold blooded terrorism; but it was a life changer for Mabel and Arden. They were only 12 and 17 respectively, when they lost their parents in the crash. Their parents were enroute Bombay from Toronto to discuss a business deal.
The family’s close friend - Denise & Steven Williams, the owner of Big Apple Farms had agreed to watch their children for them. The Wilson family were also regular visitors during autumn, so the children were well acquainted with them. They had just dropped Papa and Mamma Wilson at the airport and had reached the farm, when they received the tragic news. Since then, Denise and Steven cared for the children like their own.
The couple sent them to the best of schools & helped them with homework. They took them to sport matches and dance practices. On weekends, they went for short picnics.
Autumn was their absolute favorite - it was not only the time they were the busiest on the farm and earned their living, but also they got an opportunity to meet people from all walks of life that came to pick apples. Their farm was the only one near Toronto that had all kinds of apples from Ida Red to Macintosh, Golden Delicious to Royal Gala, Spartan to Cortland all sold by the pound of $15 per 20 lb. Visitors also had an option to pre-order already picked apples for a price of $35. It is here where Arden & Mabel came handy. They loved this activity and did it often in leisure too. They fondly remembered how their parents would watch them apple-pick in the past.
On one such day, Mabel saw an old man walking with a Dalmatian dog outside their farm. Mabel assumed he happened to be a part of one family that came apple picking and ignored.
However, after 3 days, when Mabel was doing yard work - she saw the man and the dog again. She was now certain he lived near to their farm, but wondered why he never visited the farm. She assumed it was not his cup of tea and let the thought pass.
It was nearly a week later that Mabel saw him again. This time she was running errands with Arden. They were taking the sack of leaves to the compost.
“Brother, have you seen that gentleman before?”
“Oh yes, Mabel. He seems to live close by. He takes his dog for walks twice a day - morning & evening. Why do you ask?”
“Why doesn’t he come visit us or say hello? Denise & Steven are so renowned in the village. I think we should invite him or give him some apples or its products.”
“Let’s first talk to him before giving him anything.”
As the siblings made their decision, the old man and his dog had already gone out of sight, so they vowed to talk to him next time around.
They got the chance a fortnight later when they were doing their homework outside. They ran to the fence and shouted “Hey! How are you doing today?”
The old man and his dog were taken by surprise. The dog tried to bark and the man saw the children, turned around to verify if they were speaking to him and replied “You guys talking to me? I’m… I’m doing good… why do you ask?” He seemed pleasantly surprised.
“We have seen you often and you didn’t come to our farm. Do you stay close by?”
“Why yes, in fact I do. I stay by the end of this road. However, I’m way past the age of apple picking. Gone were the days… thanks for the courtesy though.”
“We could pick some for you… or rather, would you like apple cider or pie?”
“That is very kind of you children. I really enjoy apple pie.” The old man smiled.
“Okay. How about we hand you the same on your return walk home? Can you please stop by?” The children were happy.
“Certainly. It will take me about 45 minutes to wind up my stroll.”
As promised, the old man returned 45 minutes later.
Arden & Mabel excitedly packed an apple pie and wrote a note for Thanksgiving neared. They said it was a gift and didn’t want payment. But they were scared of the dog.
“Don’t worry, she is very friendly and gentle with children. She won’t do you any harm. Peppy say hello.”
“Woof, woof” Peppy jumped and greeted them.
“Hello Peppy, what a wonderful doggy you are! My name is Arden and this is my sister Mabel. What is your name, good sir?”
“My name is Gary” he extended his arm for a handshake.
“How old is Peppy?” Mabel chirped.
“She is 7 years old. What can I do for you to return your gesture?”
“Nothing sir. Enjoy it with your family for thanksgiving.”
“I have no family. I will relish this all by myself.”
The kids didn’t know what to say. They were reminded of their parents. Nonetheless, they bid goodbye and returned home. They said nothing of this to Denise & Steven.
Gary & Peppy were seen only a few days later when an idea hit Mabel. “Hey Gary! Would Peppy like to run around our big farm?”
“Oh yes, that would be awesome. My house doesn’t have a large backyard.”
They welcomed the dog and her owner. They unleashed Peppy and watched her run wildly in the big farm. She rolled on the dry leaves and chased squirrels. She stopped to drink water and ran in rounds. All this time, Gary sat looking at her. He seemed so content and at peace, like he had never seen Peppy this happy, like something stopped him from giving Peppy the life she deserved.
After some time, he said “Thank you for making this possible. She is my only family. I’m 85 now and the youngest of my siblings - they all had ailments and passed away. I adopted Peppy when she was 2 months old. What a comely dog she has grown up to be. I adore her and love her so much.”
“We know how it feels Gary. We lost our parents in a flight crash this Summer. As the elder sibling, I was worried about how Mabel will take it, but she’s so mature for her age.” Arden said.
Gary couldn’t believe his ears - “That’s so terrible!! You children have a heart of gold and are extremely courageous. You will go a long way for this deed. Life is unfair but you will shine through it all.”
“Thanks Gary, this means a lot to us.”
“Would you like to get some ice cream by the Lakes tomorrow? It’s on me.”
And so their friendship began - they had ice creams, went for picnics, played with Peppy.
1 and half months went by and it was December. On one of their walks Gary said “I recently happened to connect with my classmate. He seemed to invite me home for Christmas. I have decided to go 15 days prior and spend time with him. He is allergic to animals, so will you please watch Peppy for me?”
The kids instantly agreed! They knew they could convince Denise & Steven.
Gary was to depart in 3 days and so they went to his house and got the food and water bowl, toys and her bed. He detailed them about the feeding instructions and the veterinary details. He lived in a very minimalistic house with 1 bedroom. There was furniture just adequate for him and vessels that sufficed only for him. Like he never expected any guests to his place. Just before the children took their leave - Gary thanked them again.
The two days before Gary was to leave - he seemed very excited. It was more than just going back to see a long-lost friend.
On the morning of his departure, Arden & Mabel woke up excitedly to bring home Peppy. Much to their surprise, Peppy was already in their farm, playing with Steven.
Peppy rushed to the siblings as soon as she saw them.
“Arden, Mabel - do you know this dog?”
“Yes, it is the dog that we were to look after for a month. I told you about it, remember?” Arden answered.
“Yes, but if you were to go and get the dog…who had left him tied to the postbox and all her stuff?”
“What are you saying! Why would Gary do that?” Mabel scoffed.
“Wait.. who did you say is the owner? Did you say Gary?” Steven's face seemed pale.
“Yes, Gary. We don’t know the last name but he stays down the road.” Arden ascertained.
“I… that.. umm.. Denise… we, erm.. have a situation. Could you come down here?” Steven screamed for his wife, much to the confusion of the kids.
Denise rushed to the sight, unmindful of anything.
“They say this dog belongs to Gary… the man who stayed at the end of this road.”
“Oh my!!!!” Denise gasped.
“Can either of you please tell what happened!?” Arden screamed.
“Arden, dear… how could this be?”
“How could what be?” Mabel questioned.
“Umm... simply put, Gary passed away 5 years ago. He seemed to have an accident when he was driving. After 2 days in the hospital he succumbed to the injuries. He left behind his dog.”
Arden and Mabel were aghast! They put on their boots and coat and decided to run to Gary’s house. Denise and Steven said they would accompany them too.
As they reached the house.. what stood there shocked the kids. It was entirely different from what they had previously seen. The house was dilapidated and in complete shackles. The fence was broken as were the gates, the roof had a hole and the walls had been worn down. The window glasses were in shatters and there were cobwebs. It seemed like a scene out of a horror movie.
Peppy ran one particular corner of the isolated house and barked. She had found something there and was calling the attention of Arden and Mabel. There, at the mailbox, was a fresh red apple, with a package and a letter.
Dear Arden & Mabel,
I had no family except Peppy. She and I were each other’s family. When I expired,it broke my heart to leave Peppy alone in this world. My soul was never at peace. I just couldn’t abandon her and came back to take care of her.
In all the 5 years I have walked by your farm, I have seen it come to life in spring, I have seen it bustle with countless families picking apples. I have seen it being a white wonder but no one except you two has come forward to talk to me and offered me pie. That day, I was moved. I have never felt this warmth in years. You know what it is like to love somebody beyond their presence. Your eyes speak compassion. For this reason, I am leaving behind Peppy in your care. I am confident you will do a great job.
Until we meet on the other end, please continue what you’re doing and touch the lives of many.
Love & respect,
The studio was silent. Arden & Mabel were in near tears. No one had previously heard the story behind the AppleHound farms before.
“Wow! What an awe-inspiring story” the interviewer exclaimed.
“Yes, in fact that's when we changed the name of the farm & came up with the logo. Apple pickers loved having Peppy around. She lived a good life till 15.” Mabel completed the story.
“As toddlers we fondly remember going apple picking with our parents. We never anticipated that we would grow up there during our formative years. And when we were apple picking others, we came across Peppy and adopted her. - that farm has given all of us something to be grateful for. To most, apple picking is a family activity but for us apple picking set a foundation to love another family that eventually became our own.” Arden added.
“That is such a heartfelt story. Thank you for sharing it with us. We are also nearing the end of the show's time. But I just have 1 last question… may I ask?”
“Sure, go ahead!” Mabel replied.
“What happened to Gary’s house?”
“Oh, of course! We renovated it and have converted into a museum that sheds light on the history of AppleHound Farms, our childhood and more.” smiled Arden.
That day apple-picking in North America had gained more attention and people thronged AppleHound farm. People's respect for Arden and Mabel increased significantly.
Till this date, that episode is the most viewed on several social media platforms.