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This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

Try this out if you don't believe me: ask a group of Rock Island senior citizens whether they would have preferred growing up in Eden or in Rock Island, and the answer nine times out of ten will be Rock Island. Particularly if those senior citizens grew up in a neighborhood filled with home apple orchards.

Eden might have been comfy, but there was only one apple tree in the whole place. And we're not even sure if it was tasty. Back before apple growers had to worry about shipping and keeping qualities and color size and shape, the apple orchards along the Mississippi Valley provided a new apple variety every two weeks or so, from a threshing time in early July until the first hard freeze in November. A new Eden of flavor every few days.

The first apple to ripen was usually the Yellow Transparent, good for sauce, and so tender it's squashed if allowed to fall. Then came early harvest, more substantial, lasting until September when the Wealthy and Maiden Blush ripened. Maiden Blush, with its flattened shape and dusky gold color with pink cheeks, the best apple pie of all times.

By late September into October, beginning with Grimes Golden, so many apples ripened that it was hard to keep up. Even the names makes one's mouth water. Someone once made a poem up out of nothing but apple names. It began "Wine Sap, Northern Spy Baldwin, York, and Willow Twig. Ben Davis, Greening, Russet, Pippin, Macintosh and Jonathan..." and so on for another five lines. Apples for pies for sauces, for canning, for eating fresh.

Any one of these might have been the apple in Eden. Genesis doesn't tell us. The only thing I'm certain of is, it was not the Snow apple. The Snow apple with its deep red skin and pure white flesh flecked with red streaks, crisp, juicy and so sweet it was hard to save enough for pie. A Rock Islander once told me that no child who grew up with Snow apples could ever be considered underprivileged. No Adam or Eve could be expected to resist such temptation.

Rock Island Lines is underwritten by the Illinois Humanities Council and Illinois Arts Council, a state agency, with additional funding from Humanities Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council, and Augustana College, Rock Island.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.