The Apple Doesn’t Fall Far from the Tree


Yesterday, Morgan called to tell me that she had, again, forgotten her schoolwork. (She forgets her homework on a regular basis. It’s annoying.) She’d left her leaf project book (due that day!) on the coffee table of my cousin Mark’s house while she’d been waiting for the bus. I drive her and her eleventh-grade brother over to the old farmhouse every day to catch the bus because it won’t come down our rocky road. Weston usually waits on the old farmhouse porch and pets the cats. Morgan usually goes into my cousin’s house and steals a PopTart.

I bet they wonder where their PopTarts keep going.

The eighth grade around here means West Virginia History, and the leaf project is one of the notorious landmarks of the year. The students are required to collect leaves, put them in a book, and identify them. The passing down of the leaf project book from brother to sister to brother and so on is part of family tradition here. Not that you can re-use a leaf project book (the leaves become noticeably old, darn it!) but it’s all about the identification. Past leaf project books become handy resources in identifying the leaves all over again. Only leaves from trees native to West Virginia can be used.

The project also requires a paper to accompany it, and it turned out to be my luck to be put out and forced to drag myself over the hill to pick up her leaf project book in the end as it actually gave me a chance to read her paper. (She’d only written it at the last minute the night before, so I hadn’t seen it.)

I realized two things upon reading her paper. One, she’d made me laugh so much that every ounce of my annoyance had disappeared, and two, she has learned something about writing from me, after all:

If you have nothing important to say, at least try to be entertaining.

By the way, the paper was supposed to be something of a journal chronicling the student’s search for leaves. Morgan only listed two days in the journal, and for one of those days, she couldn’t even remember the date. The leaf expeditions she chronicled involved my cousin (Mark) and his wife (Sheryl).

Leaf Project

Date: September 19th

I left the house at 7:30 am to help Mark move tree limbs away from the road. He asked what I was doing in school and I told him about the leaf project. He said, “Well, after we get done here, I’ll take you around on the Cushman and go find trees.” I immediately stopped what I was doing and asked, “What kind of tree is this?” and pointed at the tree we were picking up limbs from.

“That’s a White Pine.”

“Is it native?”


As soon as he said that, I ran over to the tree and tried to rip a little thingie off. Then I remembered that pines are soft woods and that it’s kind of hard to rip something off them. So that was an embarrassing scene filled with kicks and “grrrs” at the tree. I finally ripped it off! My first leaf! Woo hoo! Seriously, I felt so proud of myself….and then I realized I had 39 more to go. But back to the story or truth, whichever you wish to believe. Mark then pointed out a Pin Oak located across the yard, so I go running over there, and you know, far away the limbs didn’t look that high, but when you get closer, they are higher than you originally thought. When I reached the tree, I had to do that spiking thing that we were taught to do in volleyball.

We eventually ended up in the Cushman, which is a little hoodless type truck thingie, only it doesn’t look like a truck, and it goes slower than pretty much every automotive thing there is. We were driving down the road and when we reached where we were going to turn off, we went up this hill. Well, Mark is a big boy so the Cushman thought it was too heavy and, well, it died on us, so we had to walk up this big hill. Mark was pointing out that “this tree is some kind of maple.” We kept walking and he stops to look at a tree with flowers. He pulls off a flower and he said, “Taste it.” I took a bite of one and he tells me, “Don’t eat it, lick it, it’s a honeysuckle.” And then I didn’t get one of its leaves. [Note from Suzanne: Isn’t that a shrub?]

So after yet another embarrassing incident, we kept walking, and we heard something in the woods. I thought it was a coyote and I screamed, but it was a big deer/buck thing, and he laughed at me. I kept walking and we reached the plateau. (Ha! It isn’t pointless to teach us vocabulary. A lot of people say, “When are we ever going to use this?” Look! I just did!) But I didn’t really find any different trees and the ones we did find, Mark didn’t know what they were. Mark wanted to take an alternate route down so we went through the woods. Luckily I know my way through these woods and I’m not a klutz walking in the woods so I didn’t fall.

Date: I don’t remember.

I went with Sheryl and Madison to go to Madison’s birthday party at Sheryl’s mom’s house, and Sheryl and I took the dog, Cody, for a walk. As we were walking down the road, Sheryl saw someone she knew so we stopped and talked to him for awhile. Cody wanted to play with this guy’s dog, but this guy’s dog wanted to fight, so I was pulling on this stupid dog because he apparently doesn’t know the difference between aggressive behavior and playful behavior. Sheryl was afraid we’d lose Cody so she wouldn’t let him off the leash, so I had to walk with him as he used the world for his restroom. There was another neighborhood dog named Cash. He was fluffy and had a random gray spot on his chest. (If dogs have chests.) He didn’t want to play, either, but Cody didn’t get it. There was some giant tree there and we didn’t know what it was, but I took a twig anyway. Cody and I ran down the street and surprisingly, I wasn’t the tired one. (Thanks to volleyball.) We stopped at the end of the street and I handed Sheryl the leash and said, “Hold him, I’m going into this guy’s yard for some leaves.” I went traipsing through this guy’s yard taking leaves and I had no idea what they were.

That’s kind of it except that I forgot to bring them in so you could help me identify them. I say help, but I really mean so you could identify them. I only have about 30 leaves and half of them are wrong.
I abide you a good day, Mr. Halcomb.

–Morgan McMinn

I took the leaf project book in to her teacher and said, “I would like to ask you to grade this paper for what it truly is, an exercise in CREATIVE WRITING.”

She got a 100 (on the paper).


  1. Sonja Foust says:

    That was some fine creative writing! She’s a lot nervier than I would have been at that age, and a lot funnier too. ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Chris says:

    That is awesome. Very funny – she sounds like a great kid.

  3. michellewillingham says:

    Suzanne, she is a GREAT writer. Love it! Save that one for her scrapbook. It’s wonderful. :sheep:

  4. CindyP says:

    :shimmy: Great job, Morgan! In eighth grade and already have it down how to make that paper long enough!

  5. Biddy says:

    Brilliant! Charming, funny and she already has her writer’s voice. People would kill for that. You are right, the apple doesn’t fall far. :snoopy:

  6. Heidi says:

    Oh that is so funny. Makes me wish I was her creative writing teacher.

  7. Christine says:

    ROTFL! Oh that’s priceless.

  8. monica says:

    She will be a great story teller! You go Morgan! Thank your Mom for bringing your project in for you to get full credit!

  9. Blaze says:

    as a graduate of the WV educational system I can’t tell you how invaluable its been to me to have created a book of leaves.

    But at least she had fun doing it!
    Thats what matters.

  10. Chic says:

    What a girl! I agree..the apple didn’t fall far from the tree!! I love the way she signs off LOL…..Morgans got guts and a great sense of humor…way to go Morgan!

  11. Mary says:

    :sun: I’d give her an A+ too!! Morgan is not only hilarious but honest as well. What an enjoyable read. I can’t wait to show Maddy what a fun writer Morgan is. Props to you, Morgan!! Maybe you will follow in your mom’s footsteps!! Excellent job! You rock, girrrllll!!!!!!! :shimmy: :purpleflower: :moo: :fairy: :sheepjump: :woof: :cowsleep: :whip: :butterfly: 8)

  12. Shells says:

    Good on you Morgan.

  13. Senta Sandberg says:

    I love it! Your Mamma is so proud. When people ask me were I learned to paint I just say it was a gift I inherited from my Grandma. Creativity runs in the family. :happybutterfly:

  14. Becky Bozic says:

    This is wonderful! Thanks for sharing. I remember my leaf project from back when dinosaurs ruled. I was in the Webster County school system. Unfortunately, I had to do another one in high school biology. But, fortunately, my grandpa had a farm and we did the two projects together, and finding the leaves were a fun time.

  15. .Nancy in Iowa says:

    Fantastic! That little twig sure didn’t fall far from the tree! Thank you for the morning giggles, Morgan!

  16. Victoria says:

    How awesome that she “abides” her teacher. What a cool kid. I lvoe her writing style. So refreshing. Sounds like she has a neat teacher who encourages the youth to get out and EXPERIENCE the beauty that surrounds them. Makes me want to go back to school to finish my degree in education so I can be a teacher…IN A RURAL SCHOOL!!!!

    Thanks for sharing. Your website keeps me dreaming of the country life I will SOMEDAY have!

  17. Donna says:

    Wow, looks like Morgen is going to follow in her mom’s footsteps! Quite a creative writer there…she is ADORABLE! ๐Ÿ˜€

  18. Michele says:

    Wow, she is a really great writer, enjoyed the post. :snoopy:

  19. Betty says:

    Loved it!! Great writing Morgen, reading it made my day!!

  20. Cousin Sheryl says:

    What can I say, I’m not a natuarist. I can’t identify more than about 10 trees! ๐Ÿ˜•

    But, that’s our Morgan….bright, funny, outgoing, spunky, polite, not to mention beautiful inside and out! (She is a credit to her mother and a joy to have around!) Mark and I are just glad that we get to “share” her a little bit and enjoy her as a “borrowed daughter” every once in awhile, since we only have one son.

    Great job, Morgan! You rock! :snoopy: :shimmy:

    PS: And great job, Suzanne….you’ve raised her well (and contributed some awesome nature and nurture in the writing department!).

    Love ya!

  21. Jean says:

    Morgan, you certainly deserved a 100 on that paper. It was creative, funny, entertaining and very well written. I hope you never stop writing. Thank you. It brightened my day to read it. (And you do have a beautiful smile!)

  22. JeannieB says:

    Like mother like daughter!! What a girl, funny and honest.

  23. Amy Buchanan says:

    Yes, definitely creative! Keep reminding yourself of that when she’s about 16 and you really want to strangle her – it’s going to happen – trust me! I have three girls – and they are all very ‘creative’ in many many aspects!
    NONE of which will probably help them along in life, but they are -at the very least- entertaining and offer a good laugh when really a good murder is in order! LOL

  24. Oklahoma Granny says:

    Oh, how I remember those leaf collections when our son and daughter did them. I only wish there had been digital cameras back then because the teachers here never returned the collections to the kids for future reference. Your daughter is definitely very creative with her writing. I’m sure you’re very proud.

  25. Leah says:

    You go girl!Morgan, you did a good job on the report!

  26. The Retired One says:

    LOVE that girl! I am SURE she got her creative writing talents and imagination from her MOM. Or the mean chicken. HA

  27. Judy Mitchell says:

    I think the vote is pretty much unanimous, Morgan is going to be a GREAT writer. I really enjoyed her “project.” I’d have given her a 100 too! What she lacked in identification, she made up for it double in creativity.

  28. Blackberry Acre Primitives says:


  29. Darlene says:

    Remember this talent comes from all the times you’ve told her to do xxxx and she’s come up with a good story about why she shouldn’t have to do that.

    I agree with Amy about a good murder. I have 2 daughters and sometimes ya just want to knock them to the moon (note, son is in danger of becoming an Apollo astronaut too) – especially as they get “creative” about why they haven’t made curfew, done the chores or their schoolwork or gotten of the computer. :yes:

    We should have the greatest generation of creative writers ever produced! What with text messaging and IMing, they now “write” all the time. Shame they can’t spell. :no:

  30. GrammieEarth says:

    First time I have seen this…and I thougth I had read every post!!!

    Morgan, that was perfect! Honesty is always the best policy!

    I remember trying to do a book report on ‘The Hobbit’ wayyyy back when. I ended the three minutes with “It’s potato pickin’ time and I haven’t had time to finish the book” I got a good grade as well…but not a 100!!


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