Even Ugly Has a Purpose

If you see a cow frothing at the mouth, slobbering all over themselves, and chewing for all their worth, you know they’ve found one. Every year, late summer or early fall, they arrive. Without question, the ugliest fruit I’ve ever seen. Horseapples! Native to the Great Plains, the horseapple is the fruit of the bois d’arc (pronounced bodark) tree. Up north, in places like Iowa, they’re called hedge apples, and the tree is the Osage orange, named after the Osage Indians. In my neck of the woods, we have the Bois D’Arc Bash, a local festival in the nearby college town (Texas A&M-Commerce) each fall to celebrate the ugliest fruit in Texas. It occurs a few weeks after our Cotton Harvest Festival. Texans like a good party, and we can find any reason to celebrate—even ugly fruit.

About the size of a grapefruit, with a yellowish-green color, thick hide, and covered with the worst case of “pimples” I’ve ever seen, is the horseapple. The wood of the bois d’arc tree has long been a favorite for fencing, etc. (it’s hard as a rock and insect and fungus resistant). The fruit is only good for young boys to throw at one another (Ouch! Those suckers leave a mark!). Back to my cows.

Cows are curious creatures. And until the fallen fruit softens as it decomposes, it’s a threat to my cattle. More than once, I’ve come upon a cow standing there with saliva all over its face. It can’t chew the hard fruit, but it’s sometimes too large for them to spit out of their mouth. So, they stand around looking sorry for themselves and hoping someone will come along and pry their mouth open and remove the terrible tasting thing.

The danger to cattle is that if the fruit remains lodged in their esophagus for too long, the cow can’t eructate (aka burp) and release its ruminal gases. When that happens, death follows. I wish I could tell you they learn their lesson and never try to eat a horseapple again. Oh well.

Like my cattle, I’m curious too. I researched horseapples and learned that for as ugly as they are, as useless as they seem, God made them for a purpose. The sticky, milk-like juice from the fruit is a remarkable insect repellent, although it sure attracts fire ants. I also discovered a company in Monmouth, IL that pays $180 per ton for them. This company harvests the oil and sells it, where it is used to create natural cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and essential oils. Imagine. Beauty products coming from something this ugly.

As I thought about the horseapple, and what godly lesson I might learn from it, God brought two scriptures to my mind. Genesis 1:12 (NKJV), “And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good.” This reminded me that God created all things for His purpose. Part of the mystery of life is discovering God’s purpose for every living thing.

All of God's creations have value. We just have to find it sometimes. Share on X

The second verse brought me comfort as I sat there and recited it softly in affirmation. “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 NKJV). It is in the promise of this verse that I know I will one day find God’s purpose for my life in Him. I know that I am here today because this is where He wants me to be; and here I will remain until He calls me home.

I don’t yet know what God has planned for me, but I know I want to study, work, and grow to become the man He’s always intended me to be. I pray you remain steadfast in finding His purpose for your life as well.

God’s blessings,


52 thoughts on “Even Ugly Has a Purpose”

  1. Well, J.D., you taught me something today LOL I have never heard of horse apples! And I can just picture this poor bovine needing to be freed from one. I love how you give us a picture of ugly redeemed 🙂

    1. Awww… thank you Ms. Jeanne. When they’re on the ground, normally July-November, I try and check on everyone who’s near the trees at least a couple of times each day. I’ve heard that others have lost cattle to this, but my God’s grace I’ve always found them in my cows (or one of my neighbors’) before it got to that point. That’s why I keep a long screwdriver in my ATV, I can poke that rascal from the side and yank it out of there if I need to. 🙂 Thank you for commenting ma’am. God’s blessings.

  2. I love the title, JD. Great message too. You mean to say there’s hope for all of us, as ugly and weak as we may be, that God has a use and a purpose for our lives? Nice!

    1. Thanks Mr. Paul; am pleased you enjoyed. And yessir, I’m living proof that God can use ugly. With His help, I’m tryin’ to look more like Him with each passing day. One day, we all will my friend. God’s blessings sir. Am sure looking forward to your new book, Safest Place in Iraq, being released soon.

  3. They are messy things, but great analogy. God takes what we consider useless and brings good! Thank you, J.D. Blessings as you walk HIS path!

    1. Yes ma’am; they sure are a sticky mess ain’t they. What a great observation you make my friend. God can take what the world thinks is useless and bring beauty and good from it. God’s blessings sweet friend. I trust you are safe from the storms of Sunday evening?

  4. What an interesting article. I didn’t know any of that information about Osage oranges but remember them from my childhood. As my Dad was taking me to school one morning, one of those hard things fell to hit the windshield right in front of the passenger seat. It scared me, cracked the glass, and made Daddy pretty mad. Nothing is wasted in God’s economy, and everything is beautiful in its time. Blessings.

    1. They’ll sure leave a dent in your hood, that’s for sure Ms. Dottie. Am so pleased you enjoyed the post ma’am; as I do yours. It’s amazing when we stop and think about How awesome our God is isn’t it ma’am? Have a blessed day please.

    1. 🙂 Yes ma’am. Glad I could answer that question for you. Am betting y’all have them up in OK too. Praying you’re all doing well and traveling safely ma’am. Hugs to “Baby J” from Ms. Diane and me.

    1. You and me both Ms. Cathy. Although, I don’t think ugly and Ms. Cathy could have ever been used in the same sentence young lady. I bet Mr. Brian agrees; you’re sweeter than honey on a biscuit ma’am. God’s blessings my friend.

  5. I’m a city boy. Born and raised in Chicago; and never saw one of those ugly things. Transplanted here in Texas, I still haven’t seen one. And from what you told me about them I don’t want to see one. But your real life story and how are you related to scripture was inspiring.

    1. Thank you for the comments Mr. Raymond. Next time we’re in your neck of the woods I’ll bring you one. Thought they were that far south in TX, but maybe not in the big city like you’re in. And if you come visit the ranch, I can give you a truckload full of them right now. They’re all over the road and down our north fence line. 🙂

  6. Author Terry Palmer

    I am in your debt sir, for this article and how this ol’ papa might relate. What a great way to take an orphan of nature and make it of great value, exactly what God does with us and thanks

    1. Thanks Ms. Terry. It sounds as though you and I shared the same thoughts and insights my friend. When I think of how UGLY I was in my sin; and how God is cleaning me up (from the inside out), them ol’ horseapples look amazing! 🙂 God’s blessings dear brother.

    1. Thanks Ms. Robin. Am glad you enjoyed learning young lady. If I can find one on the ground, I’ll bring it to you in SC one day when they’re in season. 🙂 You can draw it. Lots of texture!

    1. Yep; that’s what I learned they’re called. I don’t remember ever seeing these in Florida growing up (although a few fast-moving grapefruits found their mark walking home from school now and again when I was young). I’ve seen them on my friend’s farm in northeast MO and also in southern Iowa. Up there, they call them “hedge apples.” Isn’t the fact that nothing is wasted that God created amazing Ms. Melissa? Have a blessed week also sweet friend. Has my pal “Licky the Lizard” sold out yet in the new store?

  7. True and so good! Butch’s dad used horseapples under his old frame houses to keep termites away. I can think of many times in my life when the Lord used ugly to make something good. He makes everything beautiful in his own way and time. Good job!

    1. Why thank you Ms. Linda. Am glad you enjoyed ma’am; and thank you so much for commenting. And yes ma’am, He sure does make everything useful and beautiful in His time; if we’ll just let Him. God’s blessings to you and Mr. Butch.

  8. Hey J.D.

    Wow-sa! I always learn something new here, but defintely did today. Never heard of horseapples, and probably never seen one. I think I would remember. 🙂 But the poor cows who keep getting fooled by them. And poor you when you have to deal with it. Love the analogy that once you discovered there is a purpose for them…or parts of them, the same is true for us. I am steadfast in seeking out the Lord’s purposes for my life and praying to walk in every one.

    1. Oh… how sweet. Thank you Ms. Karen. Am glad you found the post both enlightening and inspiring ma’am. It is wonderful indeed when we find God’s purpose in our lives isn’t it? 🙂 God’s blessings sweet friend.

  9. Once again I learn the unexpected by reading your blog. Horseapples! I thought about man looking on the outside appearance but God looking at our heart. So much rough exterior we have, yet God knows we love Him and it’s wise to give others that same grace. Thanks so much! Can’t wait to read next week.

  10. How interesting! I believe I have seen those things but didn’t know what to call them. Do they smell a little like oranges? If so, I know I’ve seen them.
    Thank you, J.D., for spiritual another lesson from the ranch. God bless you!

    1. Yes ma’am. They sure do have a hint of orange small to them when they’re squashed. I’ve never cut one open; I think I’d need an axe, but perhaps I’ll do that one day and let you know. LOL

    1. Thank you so much Ms. Beckie. Am glad you enjoy ma’am. We live here in our everyday. It’s an endless resource for thoughts on God; when we take the time to think on Him throughout our day. You taught me that ma’am. 🙂

  11. I had heard of horseapples but thought it was slang for “your kidding” or “baloney,” at least that is how it was used when I was from. It is amazing that God creates us for a specific purpose – even if we don’t seem to have much going for us 🙂

    1. Thank you Ms. Denise. I hear you ma’am. I’ve heard it said they got that name “Horseapples” as the fruit is lumpy and bumpy like horse manure. I’d always known those as “horse biscuits” not “horse apples.” LOL Thank you for visiting ma’am. Am honored. God’s blessings.

  12. My mother n law gather them every year and put it basement and where spider are seen. I always put it garage to keep them away.

    1. Yes ma’am. I’ve never put them around or under my house, but I know several in my area who do. Thank you so much for joining in on the conversation. So glad to have you visit ma’am.

  13. Thank you for sharing lessons from the “ugly” fruit! God can take what feels like “ugly” in my life and turn it into something beautiful, like the ugly fruit made into beauty products! Thanks for sharing about the horseapple – never heard of this “creation” before!!

  14. Love your beautiful “ugly” story, J.D. But what I love most is how you care for your cattle, noticing when they have that pitiful look of distress with foam collecting around their mouths. You then gently prod the “forbidden fruit” out of their tuckered jaws to rescue them restoring them to once again fulfill their purpose – to eat, drink, and get fat! I realized how ugly temptation can be for us at times and how we still succumb to it. And yes, we need help to remove the source and place us back on the rightward way.

    1. Wow? I did all that Ms. Karen? Well, God did. 🙂 I don’t know that I’m “gentle” removing them, as I’m usually pretty scared because I don’t know how long it’s been stuck in there. Plus, you never quite know how a 1,200 lb. cow is going to react to you should you cause them pain. It’s like when pulling a calf. With your head where it is, you are not in the safest positions sometimes, but I think the animals sense I’m trying to help them. Thank God; they’ve not harmed me as I’ve tried to help them yet. Wish more people were like that. 🙂

  15. Are these uglier than dragon fruit? I guess dragon fruit might be considered pretty. Anyway, I love that I can now hear your voice as I read your post. But tell me, what good are mosquitoes? I’ve never found a positive attribute….

    1. You’ve got me on those mosquitoes Ms. Cathy. I’m afraid I’m going to have to study on that one some ma’am. Not sure that hearing my voice in your head as you’re reading is a good thing or not, but you sure made me smile today, and that is a very good thing indeed ma’am. God’s blessings; and thank you so much for subscribing. What a blessing it was to meet you at the Enrich conference last week.

    1. Not sure I’m much of an educator Ms. LuAnn, but I am sure am learning lots of stuff out here in “God’s country.” Hope you’re having a wonderful week ma’am Now that you’re retired, have you asked yourself how you ever found time to work yet? 🙂

  16. I am always so drawn to your analogies. I love how you weave facts about husbandry and nature into powerful Biblical truths. All of us have value and a purpose assigned by God–what a beautiful reminder. It also prompts me to be more thoughtful about the things I see no purpose for, things that don’t immediately benefit me. I think it will be helpful in fine tuning my attitude toward circumstances and other people. After all, some people have probably looked at me as an ugly fruit. 🙂

    1. Pastor Joshua; I can’t even begin to imagine anyone ever thinking of or seeing anything “ugly” about you my friend. You’re Bat Pastor! 😀 Thank you for all your encouragement, prayers, and support. Am sure glad God brought us together here in this world sir; cause you make mine just a bit brighter each day. God’s blessings my friend.

  17. “Even Ugly Has a Purpose,” oh, my, yes it does. Sometimes the most beautiful things come from ugly sources. Sometimes ugly things come from ugly sources, yet God uses the ugly to make something beautiful. Like a friend’s betrayal, a soldier’s spear, and a blood-drenched cross. Thank you for this reminder, J.D.

    1. I’m glad you enjoyed Ms. Susan. I don’t think they have Osage Orange near you in GA, and I know they don’t in FL; so pleased you got to see one. Thank you so much for reading and posting ma’am. God’s blessings; and I hope you’ll come back and visit with us again.

  18. I’ve heard that they can also repel mice.

    And yes, the Lord does use ugly events and ugly situations and ugly people for his glory. I’m reminded of the fact that my grandmother was uncomfortable with how she looked, because she’d had smallpox, and had the scars all over her face. But I didn’t learn that until I was at least 10 years old. I’d never noticed the scars. I’d only noticed the love.

    1. I can’t confirm the mice, but I wouldn’t doubt it sir. I know a dear friend at church same her family put them around the foundation for termites. I love this line my friend, “… I’d only noticed the love.” I doubt that anything else mattered sir. 🙂 God’s blessings.

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