SPLAT!

The once-spherical apple had liquified upon contact with Big Macintosh's face. Applejack choked down a laugh as she wiped the viscous juice off her big brother.

"Howd'ja end up hittin' yerself with that apple?" Applejack chuckled.

"I don't know, AJ," Big Macintosh replied. "I kicked it hard as I could, but somethin' was off, I guess."

"It's not like applebuckin', Big Mac," Applejack said. "When ya buck a tree, ya really can't miss. When yer kickin' an apple, ya not only gotta be strong, but accurate too!"

Big Macintosh flashed a small smile. "You can't miss a tree, you say? What about last applebuck season?"

Applejack shot him a glare. "So ya sayin' that I ain't accurate, eh? Watch an' learn!" She took a quick glance at the Sweet Apple Acres barn several yards away. Apple Bloom had painted a target on it for her older siblings to practice with. Applejack reached down and snagged two green apples between her teeth. With a flick of her neck, they were airborne. For a second, the succulent apples glinted in the morning sun; then, they descended. Before they hit the ground, however, two rear hooves rocketed outward, hitting the fruit. The apples streaked through the heavy summer air.

SPLAT! SPLAT!

The apples burst, emptying their liquid contents on either side of the bulls-eye. Applejack crossed her forelegs contentedly. "That, big brother, is how ya make apple juice."

Big Macintosh was thoroughly impressed, but he didn't show it. "You call that accurate, little sis? I don't see a drop on the bullseye."

Applejack laughed. "As if you can even hit the target!"

Big Macintosh grunted. "It's because the apple's moving! I can hit a standin' apple just fine."

"Show me."

Thump. Big Macintosh lashed out at the closest apple tree. A large, plump red apple dropped to the ground. Big Macintosh carried it over to a tree stump. He then carefully placed the apple on the center of the stump and slowly turned around. He craned his neck, methodically sizing up the apple.

"I don't got all day." Applejack yawned, leaning against a tree.

Big Macintosh snorted but returned to the task at hand. Just a square kick in the middle and the thing would go flying over to the bulls-eye. Big Macintosh slowly lifted his hindleg in position. He was ready.

His hoof shot forward, connecting with the apple almost instantaneously.

SPLAT!

The apple exploded on the side of the barn, spurting its juices away from the bulls-eye where it had hit.

With a wide grin on his face, Big Macintosh looked to Applejack. Her eyes were wide. She shook her head.

"Big Mac, ya used a trick apple or somethin'. No way ya got a bulls-eye on your second shot."

The stallion simply laughed and hitched himself to the apple cart. "Come on, AJ. It's almost noon, and that means hungry ponies waitin' for us at the marketplace."

Applejack, muttering to herself, grabbed her own apple cart and followed Big Macintosh into Ponyville.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"So, Big Mac, I've been thinkin'," Applejack said, trotting next to her big brother.

"My little sis? Thinkin'?" Big Macintosh said with a smile.

Applejack ignored the comment. "When ya mentioned last applebuck season, that set me thinkin' 'bout it, too. An' I couldn't help but think how much Rarity an' Twilight helped us. I mean, if them two hadn't showed up I dunno whether me, Dash, Pinkie an' Fluttershy could've done it."

"What do you mean?" Big Macintosh asked. What was AJ going on about now?

"Did ya not see the unicorns levitatin' an' all that? Why, they just floated hundreds of apples at once off the trees in a snap, no buckin' required. They harvested them apples dozens o' times faster than you or me could do it. An' that made me think... it made me think that them unicorns are better'n us earth ponies at everythin', pretty much."

"What?" Big Macintosh stared at his little sister. "What are you sayin'? Earth ponies got magic too, don't you know? We've got a magical connection to the environment and our surroundin's. And we're stronger, tougher, and hardier than them unicorns."

Applejack was adamant. "What's one thing an earth pony can do that a unicorn can't do better?"

Big Macintosh was quick to respond. "That trick you just showed me, kickin' the apples straight and hard? No unicorn can do that."

"But they can just float them apples over real fast-like at the target."

Big Macintosh thought for a long time, arranging his thoughts as he and his sister trotted into the Ponyville marketplace. "Magic is no replacement for a tough body and an even tougher mind," he finally replied. "Betcha that Twilight Sparkle couldn't handle a week harvestin' apples on Sweet Apple Acres, let alone her entire life. Farmin' is no easy business, and unicorns just ain't cut out for things like that. If a job requires dedication, gettin' down 'n dirty, and real action to just get somethin' done, you can count on an earth pony to do it."

Applejack sighed. "I guess you're right." The diaphanous light streamed through the majestic trees, bathing the packed dirt road in a soft golden light. A slow breeze sent a fresh green leaf gently spiraling into Applejack's mane.

Applejack laughed as a thought crossed her mind. "Rarity wouldn't stand two days at the farm."

Big Macintosh smiled, glad to see his sister back to normal. "Eeyup."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

"Get your juicy, refreshin', simply delicious apples here!" Applejack hollered, always the entrepreneur. She really shouldn't have bothered; Applejack was essentially a fixture in the marketplace. Everypony knew where her stand was, and she was never late. Plus, today was especially hot; her cool, refreshing apples were in great demand. She had already emptied one cart and was halfway through the next. Big Macintosh smiled. He didn't know how his sister did it; she was a born businessmare.

"Whoo-wee! Business is good!" Applejack declared, raising a hoof to wipe the sweat from her brow. "Big Mac, look after the apple stand for a bit. I'm goin' back to the farm for another cart o' apples. I got a feelin' that we'll be needin' more." Big Macintosh nodded as Applejack galloped off. Once again, Big Macintosh admired his little sister's dedication and work ethic. Even though he was physically stronger, he had always considered AJ to be the better applebucker thanks to her unwavering loyalty to the job.

Big Macintosh blinked; an unusually bright spark of light had irritated him. He squinted at the source of the spark. It was a large pegasus with a gleaming-white, muscle-bound body. He wore scintillating golden armor – the source of the light - and a prominent helm that identified him as one of Princess Celestia's royal guards. Big Macintosh looked around for Princess Celestia, but she was nowhere to be seen; the guard must have been on a holiday.

As the armor-plated pegasus got closer, Big Macintosh could see that a haughty sneer was plastered on his face. The guard shoved a skinny yellow earth pony away as he approached Applejack's apple stand.

"Hmph. Apples. Is that all you peasants got for me?" The pegasus scoffed in a baritone voice.

"Would you care to try one, mister?" Big Macintosh asked. The guard ignored him and simply took an apple from the cart. He devoured it whole.

"Disgusting," the pegasus remarked. However, he grabbed three of the biggest apples and trotted off, taking the apples with him.

"You never paid for those," Big Macintosh said firmly. The guard did not turn around.

Big Macintosh galloped in front of the pegasus, stopping him in his tracks. "That'll be three bits, mister," Big Macintosh said.

"Outta my way, rock farmer." The guard gave Big Macintosh a shove. Big Macintosh did not budge.

"You'll have to pay for those apples."

The pegasus growled. "Shut up, you simpleton! I can do whatever I want!" He tossed an apple straight at Big Macintosh's face.

SPLAT! For the second time that day, Big Macintosh was drenched in fruit juice. Big Macintosh did not budge.

"Now move it, little earth pony," the guard said, shoving Big Macintosh harder this time. Big Macintosh did not budge.

"This is your last warning. If you do not -" The pegasus cut off Big Macintosh with a yell as he swung a foreleg at Big Macintosh's head. The hard, metal horseshoe made contact with Big Macintosh's snout. Big Macintosh's head reeled back; he stumbled backwards a step.

"Alright, you're askin' for it," Big Macintosh said, his eyes narrowing into slits. The guard continued his rage-fueled assault by charging the earth pony, head-first. Big Macintosh nimbly stepped aside and bucked the pegasus in the rump as he galloped past. The guard landed helmet-first in the dust.

With a snarl of anger, the pegasus tackled Big Macintosh, wrestling him into the ground. For a split second, the red stallion was pinned to the dirt. Then, Big Macintosh kicked the royal guard straight in the stomach. With a groan, he rolled off and vomited all over the apple cart.

Big Macintosh's stunt had only served to further enrage the pegasus, however. He had extended his wings and flown into the sky. Big Macintosh stared with narrowed eyes as the guard shot high into the air. The earth pony subtly shifted his weight onto his forelegs as the pegasus initiated an aerial attack. The guard extended one forehoof, then flapped his wings powerfully as he dove down upon the patiently waiting Big Macintosh.

As the pegasus plummeted towards Big Macintosh, Big Macintosh lifted his rear legs high and bucked him right out of the sky.

The guard got a mouthful of dirt as he landed hard on his jaw. His now-dented helmet bounced away, revealing his mussed-up blue mane. His wings seemed to possess a mind of their own and his eyes now reminded Bic Macintosh of a certain gray mailmare. Finally, after a great deal of moaning, the pegasus scooped up his broken helmet and took to the air, shouting things at Big Macintosh that his father had told him never to say.

Big Macintosh smoothed his hair and did his best to get the dirt off of his coat as he watched the royal guard zigzag over the horizon.

"I still don't have those three bits he owes me."