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OpinionColumnistsWilliam F. B. O'Reilly

All look for America while apple picking

Apple picking in New York.

Apple picking in New York. Photo Credit: NaDean DeRosa

Locusts. That was the word I was trying to think of recently while "picking" apples with my daughter and friends at a farm in North Salem, in northern Westchester. A scorched-earth campaign kept banging in my head, but it was "locusts" I was really after, as in the swarming insect that would have rendered Eden barren in a matter of minutes had the two crossed paths in the Old Testament.

I was one of the locusts. Most were from the city. Our idling cars lined up for miles to pick and scrape at a piece of earth and feel . . . wholesome.

Kids were in tow. Every grown-up came with one. "Look at the leaves, [insert name]! Aren't they pretty?" And they were.

There were no apples on the trees, actually. They had been picked and placed in bins. It was more apple selecting than apple picking, kind of like at Fairway, just outdoors. You couldn't fault the farm's owners. Whole extended families had been climbing the century-old trees, evidently, cracking branches and dropping to the ground anything that didn't look pristine and polished. I ate a few right off the ground, to the chagrin of my 8-year-old. "That's disgusting, Daddy!"

"This is like Times Square," an overwhelmed friend said. And it was. There must have been a thousand people per acre on the farm.When the Internet first took hold, I was most excited because I thought Americans would move back out to the country. I thought I would, but I've only made it to the burbs. If everything is connected, why would we choose to live in cramped quarters when we can telecommute from beside a stream? But just the opposite is happening, and I can't figure out why. Americans are converging on urban areas all across the country. Just look at demographic charts of rural vs. urban populations in America for the past 100 years; they form an X. Everyone's headed downtown.

I was raised in Manhattan for the first nine years of my life, and lived in the city for 30 years as an adult. There's no place like it. But if you could have seen the faces on the parents at that farm, another word would have come to mind: frantic. They -- and I was among them -- were frantic to show their children a fleeting glimpse of a vanishing America.

William F. B. O'Reilly is a Republican consultant who is working on the Rob Astorino campaign for governor.

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