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Fruit fan Sam Kirby, now 18, was about three when Peter Marbach photographed him. It’s taken a while, but Sam Kirby is getting over his embarrassment about what the Good Fruit Grower staff called “the dirty-faced pear boy” photo.

Fruit fan Sam Kirby, now 18, was about three when Peter Marbach photographed him. It’s taken a while, but Sam Kirby is getting over his embarrassment about what the Good Fruit Grower staff called “the dirty-faced pear boy” photo.

When Sam Kirby was young, he would cringe when his parents proudly showed off the picture of him on the cover of the Good Fruit Grower. His mother, Carolyn, had it framed and hung it on the wall of their den. He was about three years old when the picture was taken at the Kirby orchard at Hood River, Oregon. He had crawled under the family’s vines to feast on grapes, and then, with juice smeared all over his face, he went to the pear block to inspect the Bartletts that were being harvested. Photographer Peter Marbach, who was renting a house at the orchard at the time, happened to be there and captured the moment.

“Peter had been out taking photos of fruit, scenery, and whatever else he was always on the lookout for,” Carolyn recalled. “It wasn’t a posed photo, and I don’t think Sam knew he had been photographed.”

Marbach filed the picture away and later submitted it to the Good Fruit Grower, where production manager Nancy Born selected it for the cover of the pear issue in 1998.

“I think the juxtaposition of a small child with the simple goodness of fresh fruit resonated with me: farms, family, fruit,” she said. “I grew up on an orchard, and everything about the photo seems very true to life.”

Pleasantly surprised

The Kirbys, who are Good Fruit Grower subscribers, were pleasantly surprised to see their son on the cover. But not Sam. “I just kind of found it embarrassing,” he recalled. “It was just the fact that I had a purple mouth while having the picture taken. My parents would show that to people who came and say, ‘Look at Sam!’”

But when he started collecting photos for a collage for his high school graduation ceremony this spring, Sam decided that being featured on the Good Fruit Grower cover was a cool event in his life, and he could handle the embarrassment now. So, the cover shot will be included.

Sam, 18, is graduating from Horizon Christian School in Hood River and will attend Washington State University next fall to study preveterinary medicine. He is an Eagle Scout and assistant scoutmaster, and also a second-degree senior black belt in tae kwan do. He has been selected to work this summer at the Philmont Scout Ranch, the Boy Scouts’s national high adventure base in the Rockies of New Mexico, as a backpacking guide.

Carolyn Kirby and her husband, Nick, grow mostly pears but also have apples, as well as peaches, nectarines, plums, cherries, various berries, and the grapes for their personal use.