Charlie Anway Gives the Gift of Autumn

By , September 17, 2010

Tuesday, I truly became immersed in Autumn, thanks to one of our most famous and beloved Hainesites, Charlie Anway.

I’d driven Aly and my brother and sister-in-law to town for Aly’s weekly volunteer session at the Sheldon Museum. I had no particular errands in town until Michelle called to tell me that she’d heard a “listener personal” on the radio saying that locals were now welcome to pick apples from the Charlie Anway tree in the museum’s front yard. I headed right over.

This is the tree we’ve been gleaning windfalls from already. The remaining apples have ripened enough that they need to be harvested or lost. I borrowed the museum gear, an extension ladder and a picking pole—a long handle with a wire basket at the end, with hooks on one side of the rim. I loved this tool, which I’d never encountered before, but the apples were so ripe it made for exciting picking. For every apple I gathered, two or more would fall, usually pelting me on the way down.

Before long, as I worked, I’d gathered an audience of international tourists off the cruise ship. I answered their questions as well as I could, and encouraged them to sample the apples, either ones I picked for them, or the windfalls. I told them what I could about Anway, and urged them to go into the museum to learn more about him (okay, I was being a bit mercenary, trying to use apples to encourage museum patronage. So sue me). They took photos and video of me. One woman, from San Francisco, had never seen a yellow transparent apple before. She said she thought I was picking lemons, at first! Another woman told me she was visiting from Iran. I welcomed her heartily, and when she left, she said she hoped that I would come visit her country soon.

The best part about it, though, was smelling the sun warmed apples and working among the boughs of the apple tree. Although I was born in Alaska, my earliest memories come from our family’s time in Tieton, Washington, a tiny fruit growing community on the bluffs above the Yakima valley. The aroma of ripening apples in the sun-drenched autumns there is powerfully evocative for me. Standing on a ladder in Southeast Alaska, on a day much like those I remember so fondly, I felt transported to that time, and said a silent “thank you” to my benefactor, Charlie Anway.

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