Once upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds, and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that went up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.
In the orchard grew many apple-trees. Some had yellow apples and some had green apples and some had red apples and some had brown apples. And the yellow apples got ripe before the summer was over; but the green apples and the red apples and the brown apples were not ripe until the summer was over and it was beginning to get cold.
So, one day, after the summer was over and it was beginning to get cold, Uncle John saw that the apples on one of the trees were ready to be picked. And they were red apples. So he got out the old oxen, and they put their heads down and he put the yoke over and the bows under and hooked the tongue of the ox-cart to the yoke. Then he said: “Get up there, Buck; get up there, Star.” And the old oxen began walking slowly along, past the barn to the orchard. And they turned in through the wide gate into the orchard and went along until they came to the right tree.
Uncle John gathered all the apples.
Then they stopped and Uncle John took a basket and climbed up into the tree. And he picked the apples very carefully and put them into the basket. And when the basket was full, he climbed down from the tree and emptied the basket carefully into the cart. Then he climbed up again and filled the basket again; and so he did until the cart was full. Then Uncle John said: “Get up there;” and the old oxen started and turned around and walked slowly back to the barn and in at the big door. Then Uncle John took all the apples out of the cart and put them in a kind of pen, and the old oxen started again and walked slowly back to the orchard.
So Uncle John gathered all the apples from that tree and put them in the pen in the barn. Then he unhooked the tongue of the cart and took off the yoke, and the old oxen went to their places and went to sleep.
The next morning, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John and little John all went out to the barn, and they took little three-legged stools that had one end higher than the other,—the kind they used when they milked the cows,—and they sat on these stools and looked over all the apples, one by one. The apples that were very nice indeed they put in some barrels that were there; and the apples that were good, but not quite so nice and big, they were put in a pile on the floor; and the apples that had specks on them or holes in them, or that were twisted, they put in another pile. And this last pile they gave to the horses and cows and oxen and pigs, and the apples in the barrels were to go to market, or for the people to eat.
Then Uncle John got out the old oxen and they put their heads down low, and he put the yoke over and the bows under and hooked the tongue of the ox-cart to the yoke. And he put into the cart all the apples that were in the first pile, those that were good but not quite big enough to put in the barrels, and he put two empty kegs—little barrels—on the top of the load. Then the old oxen started walking slowly along, out of the barn and along the wagon track past the shed and past the kitchen door and through the gate into the road. And they turned along the road, not the way to the field where they went to get water, but the other way. And Uncle John walked beside, and little John ran ahead, and they went along until they came to a little house by the side of the road, and there they stopped.
Then Uncle John opened the door of the little house and they went in. And inside there was nothing but a log against the wall, to sit on, and in the middle of the room a kind of a thing they called a cider-press. It had a place to put the apples in, and a flat cover that came down on top, and a screw and a long handle above. Besides the cider-press, there was a chopper to chop the apples into little pieces.
Then little John sat down on the log and Uncle John put the apples in the chopper and chopped them up fine. Then he put some chopped apples, with some straw over them, in the place that was meant for apples, and then he took hold of the long handle, and walked around and around. That made the screw turn and the cover squeeze down on the apples so that the juice ran out below into the keg that was put there. And when the juice was all squeezed out of those apples, he walked around the other way, holding the handle, and that made the cover lift up. Then he took out the squeezed apples and put in some other apples and squeezed them the same way. And when all the apples in the cart had been squeezed, both kegs were full of juice. And they call the juice cider.
So Uncle John put the great stoppers that they call bungs into the bung-holes in the kegs, so that the cider would not run out. Then he put the kegs in the cart, and little John came out of the little house and Uncle John shut the door, and the old oxen turned around and walked slowly along until they came to the gate, and they walked up the track to the kitchen door, and there they stopped. Then Uncle John and Uncle Solomon took the kegs down into the cellar, and they took out a little bung near the bottom of one of the kegs, and put in a wooden spigot—a kind of a faucet. Then they set that keg on a shelf, so that a pitcher or a mug could go under the spigot.
Then Uncle John took the yoke off the oxen and they went into the barn and went to sleep.
After supper that evening, Uncle Solomon and Uncle John were sitting in the sitting-room and Uncle John spoke to little John, and said: “John, I think I would like a drink of cider.”
So little John took a pitcher and went down into the cellar, and his mother held a light while he put the pitcher under the spigot and turned the spigot; and the cider ran into the pitcher, and when enough had run in he turned the spigot the other way and the cider stopped running. Then he carried the cider up to his father, and his father drank it.
And when Uncle John had drunk the cider, he said to Uncle Solomon: “Father, that’s pretty good cider; you’d better have some.”
And Uncle Solomon said: “Don’t care if I do.” So little John had to go down cellar again and get another pitcher of cider.
Those two kegs of cider lasted for a while and then more apples were ripe and they made enough cider to last all winter and some to send to market besides.