Everyone in our little town of 500 knew enough to keep away from Mr. Wendell, but despite warnings, our dad bought the house right next door! I was 11, unwillingly carting boxes in our new-to-us home, all the while keeping one eye watching to the right; fearing the scowling old man picking apples from the trees beside the tall wire-fenced wall that separated our yards. All the town kids are scared of him, and call him Mr. Nasty because at Halloween he put a big sign on his door that read GO AWAY. The next Halloween some big boys put a bucket of water over his door, knocked and ran when he came out and got dunked. I think even the grown-ups don’t like Mr. Wendell because I heard Mrs. Weaver complaining about him one day in the store, and Mom told her “Hurting people hurt others.” All afternoon I wondered how Mr. Wendell got hurt, and how it helped for him to hurt others. It was a riddle that kept me up that night and had me worried if Mr. Wendell would hurt Dad as he went over to the fence to introduce himself; but Mr. Wendell just yelled at him to keep away, saying “don’t you dare take apples from my tree.” Some welcome. Dad just shrugged his shoulders, and went in the house.
A year later I still trembled at the memory of that unfriendly greeting, and kept my distance from the fence, but one day reasoned that some apples that had fallen in our yard from a branch hanging over the fence was fair game. Boy was I wrong. Mr. Wendell came out just as I’d picked up the 5th apple, yelling that I was a thief. I froze to the spot in fear until Mom came to the door and he finally removed himself and his red face from my view, releasing my feet to safely run into the house. Dad was home for lunch and listened as I sobbed my story to Mom, vengefully wishing ill on our nasty neighbor. “You catch more bees with honey than vinegar,” Dad said, and went back out to his truck to work.
Mom smiled in that “I’ve got a secret” way and said, “I think we’ll just give Mr. Wendell his apples back.” I worried at the “we” but watched as she pulled out the honey and a couple of ready-made pie crusts from the freezer. Honey-apple pie – yum! I tried to forget Mr. Wendell as Mom let me mix the streusel and measure out the spices while she peeled the apples I’d picked up and others she had on the counter, then mixed them with the spices and honey. I held the brown paper bag while mom slipped in the finished pie and let it bake while we cooked up dinner.
I would never tell my friends that I hid behind my mom like a baby when she rang Mr. Nasty’s doorbell. He looked like he could chew nails and I couldn’t get out the apology Mom wanted so Mom nodded at me and said, “She made this honey apple pie from the dropped apples”. He stared a second, then grabbed the pie, turned, and pushed the door shut with his foot. Mom swears she heard him say, “Edith! It’s honey-apple pie!” How strange, I thought as door closed, because Mrs. Wendell died years ago.
Dad told us at dinner that we’d done the right thing. I wasn’t so sure until an hour later as we were finishing off our pieces of honey-apple pie. Mom answered the door and we were all shocked.
There stood Mr. Wendell holding a basket of apples! I backed to the safety of the dining room doorway. He cleared his throat and looked around the room till his eyes latched on to me and he kinda whispered, “Girlie I’m sorry I been such a grouch. Haven’t had pie like that since Edith passed on.” “Uh,” he stuttered, “You can take all the apples from my trees you want, but only you. Don’t you go bringin’ a bunch of rascals with you.”
I felt all teary and couldn’t answer so I just stood there and nodded once, and then he turned real quick and walked off fast toward his house. I just stood there for a minute, kinda shocked, you know, and then we all smiled when dad chuckled, his mouth full of some of his second piece of honey-apple pie. “Good job,” he said – “glad you made two pies.” Then he added thoughtfully, while licking the sticky syrup off his lips,
“Honey is a healer, you know, and I think your pie might just have begun healing a broken heart.”
Prov. 16:24 Gracious speech is like clover honey—
good taste to the soul, quick energy for the body.
Option 1 – Refrigerated Pie Crust
If using Refrigerated Pie Crust -place one crust in pan, add apples mixed with honey, cinnamon and vanilla. Dot with 3 tsp. butter cut in six pieces and add second crust. Slice a few air holes.. Place on cookie sheet and bake at 375 for about 35 minutes, until golden brown.
For “Mile High” pie cook 7 cups of apples and cinnamon, in honey water (1 cup of each), drain and add to a single full size pie crust and top with butter and second crust and bake. It makes for a fuller pie when filling is pre-cooked.
Option 2 – Individual Honey Apple Pies with Puff Pastry –
Put sliced apples in pan. Barely cover with honey-water (equal amounts of 1 Cup honey and 1 Cup water) Bring to boil and cook for 1 minute. Drain and add cinnamon. Cut puff pastry into 6 square sections. Fold each section into triangle and pinch two sides together, forming a pouch. Put about 1/3-1/2 cup into each pouch, top with 1/2 tsp. of butter and pinch together. Bake at 375 or 400 (depending on your oven – I like lower temps) until golden brown – about 15 – 20 min.