• Published 5th May 2018
  • 9,092 Views, 175 Comments

Alternate Beginnings: Year One - Doug Graves

Seven years before the events of MLP:FiM, a human appears in Equestria, meeting Applejack and other ponies of Ponyville.

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8 Innovation

February 22nd, 993

The clatter of tools bouncing against each other echoes through the rows of apple trees as Applejack returns home. She had gone to the town blacksmith after running her stand in the morning, inquiring about tools that might be more suited for Doug’s use. The apprentice mare she talked to first had been unable to locate anything that he might use. Fortunately the journeymare who worked there had made some progress. She was able to repurpose several shovels and rakes, equipping them with longer handles. Applejack might have to come back with some of Doug’s designs for what he can use to help out.

Applejack hopes Doug will be able to use the tools; he had been trying his best not to show how sore he was the previous day, but she is afraid it will only worsen. A few of the precious bits her family has saved will be a small price if it lets him continue working as much as he does. He has been pushing himself hard, trying to make do, but the differences in their bodies makes things difficult for him.

The cart gets dropped off outside the main house and Applejack grabs one of the shovels. She brings it inside, hoping to catch Doug on his lunch break and test how the new tools work for him. He should have been working on the west field, but when she doesn’t see him there she assumes he has finished and gone inside.

Applejack finds Doug sitting in the dining room. He has finished some of the chores, if the checked off list next to him is anything to go by, and is sketching what looks like schematics for some sort of machine. Applejack moves next to him, nuzzling him before grabbing one of the plates piled high with salad. “So, what are ya working on over there?” Applejack says, mouth full of salad.

Doug moves one of the drawings closer to her, “It’s a seed drill. It basically places the seeds where you are plowing, and then pushes the dirt back over the seeds. Might save a bit of work when you are planting.”

Applejack looks at the drawing, then back at him, slowly chewing her salad. “Did you skip out on finishing that list to work on this?”

Doug shrugs, “Well, I finished planting about half of the west field. I was thinking that this might help both of us with the planting. Started working on it in my head, and came back here when I thought I had a pretty good design ready.”

Applejack shakes her head, “Did ya at least not cover the seeds back up like I asked? You should have left them uncovered.”

Doug rolls his eyes, “Yes, I followed those instructions like you asked, but there were quite a few birds hovering around. Might have lost a bit of the seeds to them.”

Applejack gives a loud sigh, “Well, if you were still out there working then that wouldn’t be an issue, now would it?”

“No, but if we used this seed drill then it wouldn’t be an issue either.”

Applejack tries to keep her voice light-hearted as she finishes her salad, “We don’t need a new-fangled machine to help us do our work. Now, stop wasting your time on that and get back out there. Gotta make sure those birds don’t devour your hard work.” She takes the plate to the counter, moving to the front door.

Doug’s voice raises slightly, “But, Applejack, this could help you save a lot of time! I know you spend a lot of your time working on the apple trees, but this could help with all the other types of planting that you do.”

Applejack’s voice raises as she responds, bits of salad flying from her mouth, “And Ah'm saying that it won’t help. Now, put those papers away and grab that shovel, and we’ll do the work how it’s supposed to be done!”

Doug still hasn’t moved from the table and responds loudly, “I still don’t get why this doesn’t work, and you aren’t explaining that! I thought we were supposed to be partners in this!”

Applejack stops at the door and turns, staring at Doug. “What, do Ah have to explain everything to you?”

“Well, it would probably help, yes. I don’t see why you wouldn’t want something that makes your job easier!”

“Well, fine then, partner.” Applejack glares at Doug as she moves back to the table. She taps the top of the drawing with her hoof, “First off, the pony to seed contact is limited to placing the seeds in the hopper you have drawn at the top.”

“Yes? And?”

Applejack rolls her eyes, “Well, how the hay do you expect the magic to… to persist? You don’t want the seeds sprouting before they get into the ground!”

Doug’s voice quiets down some, “Wait, the magic? What magic are you talking about?”

Applejack sighs as she realizes the crux of the issue. She tries to keep her voice normal, but occasionally lets slip and talks like she is lecturing a foal. “Look. Earth ponies like myself, we have a special connection to the earth and the plants we grow. We need to physically touch those plants, these seeds to transfer our magic. It works best if we touch the seeds just before we put them in the ground; this helps stabilize the root system that will develop. Using our earth pony magic then also makes a stronger connection with the magic in the ground, helping the plants grow stronger and faster.”

Doug nods, making sure he understands her, “So, touching the seeds and imbuing them with magic is a vital component of the planting process. And it has to be done as close to when the seeds are planted into the ground.”

“That’s right, sugarcube. Ah'm sorry Ah didn’t realize you didn’t know that,” Applejack says in a biting tone.

Doug sighs, looking at the papers scattered around. “No, that’s my fault. I should have known there was a reason that you do things here the way you do. Guess I’ll just throw all this out and get back to work, huh?”

Applejack quiets down, moving back to the table and nuzzling Doug. “Well, it’s still a good idea. If ya finished the design, you might be able to sell it to some of the other races, like the minotaurs. They like working with machines more than just about any other race.”

“I… didn’t know there were other races. Thought it was just ponies. You mentioned griffons before, but I thought they were like manticores, or lions back home.”

Doug hugs Applejack before gathering the papers, placing them off to the side. He grabs the shovel Applejack brought in and tests the length and sturdiness.

Applejack continues as they head outside, “Yup! Let’s see… Ah know there are ponies, griffons, minotaurs, and dragons. At least, they live close enough to Equestria to occasionally visit, but that’s really more of a Canterlot thing. Less common would be the buffalo, zebras, and yaks. There are probably others, but Ah spend my time working on the farm, not studying geography.”

“Well, I do want to help out more around the farm, but there seem to be a lot of things that I just can’t do. I hate feeling useless around here, you know?”

“Ah can understand that, Sugarcube. Just… how about, when you get these ideas, we talk about them later that night. Ah’ll tell ya what could work, and we can schedule some time for you to design.”

Doug smiles at Applejack, “That sounds good. So, any other weird magical things that go on that I should know about?”

Applejack lets out a laugh, “Oh, I should probably have Granny Smith explain, she knows better than anypony, but there are some very specific steps you have to take to get our world famous Zap Apples to grow...”