The orchard is empty of apples. The trees are naked. The rattle of a flail mower shredding pruned branches hangs high in the air. Only 22 men remain on the farm, over 200 years of orchard work experience between them. They’re unrecognizable wrapped in layers of sweatshirts and jackets, with their faces buried under hats and hoods and hidden behind safety glasses. The thuck thuck thuck of shears trimming branches is the only conversation between them. On a good day, one man can prune 35 trees. The amount of work still to be done seems impossible before their departure in a week. Trees extend to the horizon in every direction, their bare branches meshing together into a pink haze. The twilight atmosphere is without contrast. The moon has risen above the treetops.
Dalton “Dread” Hylton climbs to the top of his ladder, swings a leg into the highest branches, and stretches his arm to trim the very apex of the tree. In stark relief against the sky, he is a monument to the countless laborers who make their way to American shores to pick apples, slaughter livestock, milk cows, clean houses, raise other mothers’ children, care for the elderly and sick, and harvest food grown in American soil for American tables. They work the most unglamorous and laborious jobs to better the lives of their families far away. The dollars they wire home build houses, educate children, pay for medical treatments and funerals. They are steadfast in their mission, careful and responsible, their bodies permanently contoured and hardened by shovels, wheel barrels, and harvest buckets. When it becomes too dark to work, all at once without a signal or word, they climb down from their ladders and walk as silently as shadows to an empty van parked among the trees.