Thursday, April 4, 2013


Je suis dans une humeur pensive aujourd'hui. Yes, it's a pensive mood I'm in. What triggered this you ask? Well, it's been coming on for a while. I'll blame Spring. It does that sometimes. Don't get me wrong, it's not a bad thing to reminisce.

In the photo, from back in the day, from left to right are: Your Humble Scribe, my brother (The Old Vermonter), my Grampa Ray, my Dad, Gramp's dog Bimmie and that furry object (with a tail - to the extreme right), is Gramp's other dog, Tippie. Both of those boys were nearly always in a state of constant motion. If they weren't dashing around being happy to see everybody, they were probably in hot pursuit of a soon-to-be-late woodchuck. In this photo they're being happy.

The picture was taken in front of Gramp's sugaring shack, where he and my Uncle Hank would spend many hours in the spring boiling down maple sap into maple syrup. Those big metal cans in front of Gramp were used to collect the sap for transport to the sugaring shack. (By the way, I honestly can't remember what we called the "sugaring shack" back then. We probably didn't really have a name for it, it just "was". I'm sure if anyone remembers, it would be The Old Vermonter. Or my Mom, she's good at remembering those little details.)

Speaking of The Old Vermonter, he's the one who pulled this photo from the family archive shortly after he read this. We chatted about our childhood, which we both agreed was incredible and great. 'Twas then we realized that things nowadays (not quite in our dotage but closer than we were) are not so bad either.

Now those cans were actually milk cans. Here's how things worked, near as I can recall. Gramp would hitch up a trailer to his tractor, with those cans (empty) loaded up on the trailer. Then he'd drive up along the line of trees which had been tapped to collect syrup. Tapped as in had a hole drilled into the tree, a "tap" inserted, then a bucket hung from the tap to collect the sap. The next picture should make that clear.

On the left is the tap (with sap dripping out where it's supposed to drip out) and on the right is the sap bucket in place. The little roof on the bucket was to keep twigs, bits of bark and other debris out of the sap.

So Gramp would pull up to each tree and empty the sap buckets into the milk cans. When full, back to the sugaring shack he'd go. Where the sap would be boiled down into syrup.

Now when we would visit in the spring, we boys would often go along on these sap collecting expeditions. If we went, so did the dogs, who would run behind the tractor as we trundled up the hill and through the woods. Now Bimmie was part beagle, he was kinda low to the ground and had these big, floppy ears. So when Bimmie would run behind the tractor his ears would be flopping up and down in a most amusing manner. One day The Old Vermonter shouted out "Hey, it looks like Bimmie is flying! He's flapping his ears to stay airborne!" Seeing Bimmie "flying" behind the tractor (with Tippie in loose tactical formation to one side or the other) is a very fond memory The Old Vermonter and I share.

As Lewis and Oswald might have said, "Good times..."

Seems like all the really good memories involve family. I know mine do.

From The Old Vermonter himself (who for now is going by "c24bba3e-9d6d-11e2-a4a1-000bcdcb8a73" on this here blog - though we didn't call him that back in the day).

We did call it a "sugar house" back then. I know we call them that now. Wasn't sure if that's what we called it back then. But I'll take The Old Vermonter's word on that. It's why we call him The Old Vermonter!

This post is dedicated to the memory of Charlie. He was a good dog.


  1. Nice post....I gotta say that's an impressive wood pile behind y'all! great picture of the men...and boys. Its funny how we much little things can trigger memories. For example your dad's glasses and haircut were the same as my dad's in that era. The kind of half-smile look on your dad's face is the one thing I recall about him, to me he always looked ready to break into full smile at a moment's notice. Your gramp looked more than capable of muscling those milk cans full of sap!

    1. Dad was always ready to laugh or give someone Holy Hell. (Usually me, for doing something which made sense to me at the time, but looking back, what was I thinking?)

      Gramp was indeed, very capable.

  2. I had a fourth grade teacher who was from a place where they tapped trees for the maple sap to make syrup.
    She had fond memories, too.
    That's about the only nice thing I can say about that teacher.

    1. Well, I just don't know how to respond to that.

      Perhaps with an anecdote about my third grade teacher. Old as the hills and twice as rugged. No, I won't go there. My memories of third grade are most unpleasant.

      I guess I should apologize for reminding you of your fourth grade teacher. Which reminded me of my third grade teacher. I guess we're even?

  3. I think the reminiscing posts are the BEST posts. Always. (That's prolly a function o' my age, come to think on it.)

  4. Thanks Bro for another great trip down memory lane. I agree with Buck (on both counts I'm afraid). I remember after you left home to serve our great country, I spent many evenings and weekends clearing out 40 plus years of tools and such from the chicken coop, tractor shed, barn, milk house and sugar house(that's sugar house Sarge!) after Gram decided to sell the farm and relocate into more manageable quarters. I ended up keeping more tools and farm implements than I will use in three lifetimes! There must have been 1000 sap buckets in that sugar house that she sold off. I would assume that some of them are still gathering sap today. Keep em coming and we'll keep reading.

    1. Really Bro', ya needs to get ya a proper ID and all that. Check out

      I will include an update to the post, I wasn't sure if we called it a sugar house back in the day.

      You keep reading, I'll keep writing!


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