the year of LIVING UNOFFICIALLY

365 days of celebration

11
March

Johnny Appleseed Day

Posted by Brittany

Johnny Appleseed DayJohn Chapman, better known as Johnny Appleseed, was born on September 26, 1774. When he was growing up in Massachusetts one of his favorite spots was his father’s apple orchard, and it was his love of apples coupled with the stories of fertile grounds that he heard from traveling settlers, that inspired his lifelong work. Throughout his seventy years Johnny Appleseed introduced apple trees to Ohio, Indiana, and Illinois, and his eccentric spirit and gentle ways helped to make him a living legend. Some people celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day on the anniversary of his birth, but March 11 remains a preferred date to celebrate this legendary figure because it coincides with the planting season.

My earliest memories of the Johnny Appleseed legend date back to elementary school. I vaguely remember coloring apples and discussing Johnny’s nomadic trek across the Mid-West, but it was the Johnny Appleseed segment from Disney’s Melody Time that really left the biggest impression on me. The short depicts Johnny first starting out on his mission, aided by animals who return his kind and loving nature (John Chapman really did treat animals with the utmost respect; he was a vegetarian, rescued animals in need, and refused to put his own comfort before the safety of his animal friends, or even insects!). In contract to the film’s spirited songs, dancing woodland creatures, and typical cheery Disney disposition, Johnny strove to lead a simplistic life, weathering physical hardships in a constant effort to be self-sufficient. He never married, his clothing was threadbare (he gave away or bartered with the better clothing he received), and he often went barefoot in warm weather. Though the exact cause and date of his death are debated, it is widely believed that he succumbed to “winter plague”, or pneumonia.

To celebrate today’s “unofficial” Chris and I took a road trip to The Johnny Appleseed Restaurant in New Market, Va. Located in the Shenandoah Valley about twenty miles from my alma mater, James Madison University, the restaurant is home to a fourteen foot statue of and awkward, but friendly looking Johnny Appleseed. The gangly, oversized statue has earned the restaurant some local fame, as well as a spot in the fun-spirited book Weird Virginia. We headed to New Market right after work and arrived just as our stomachs started to growl. But before we headed into the country-style restaurant that was something like a hybrid between Cracker Barrel and your grandmother’s kitchen, we stopped to take pictures with giant Johnny.

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