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bay. When the pile became so large it wound. The bigger the gash the more was in the way, it was cleaned up—that the sap, seemed to be the theory, as if is, run through the fanning mill, one the tree was a barrel filled with liquid, us shoveling in the grain, another turn whereas a small wound made by a halfing the mill, and a third measuring the inch bit does the work just as well and grain and putting it into bags or into the is far less injurious to the tree. bins of the granary. One winter, when I When there came a bright morning, was a small boy, Jonathan Seudder wind northwest and warm enough to threshed for us in the barn on the hill. begin to thaw by eight o'clock, the He was in love with my sister Olly Ann sugar-making utensils—pans, kettles, and wanted to make a good impression spiles, hogsheads—were loaded upon the on the “old folks.” Every night at sup- sled and taken to the woods, and by ten per father would say to him, “Well, o'clock the trees began to feel the cruel Jonathan, how many shock to-day?" ax and gouge once more. It usually fell and they grew more and more, until one to my part to carry the pans and spiles day he reached the limit of fourteen and for one of the tappers, Hiram or father, he was highly complimented on his day's and to arrange the pans on a level founwork. It made an impression on father, dation of sticks or stones, in position. but it did not soften the heart of Olly Father often used to haggle the tree a Ann. The sound of the flail and the good deal in tapping. “By Fagus!” he fanning mill is heard in the farmers' would say, “how awkward I am!” The barns no more. The power threshing rapid tinkle of those first drops of sap in machine that travels from farm to farm the tin pan, how well I remember it! now does the job in a single day--a few Probably the note of the first song sparhours of pandemonium, with now and row or first bluebird, or the spring call then a hand or an arm crushed, in place of the nuthatch, sounded in unison. of the days of leisurely swinging of the Usually only patches of snow lingered hickory flail.
here and there in the woods and the The first considerable work in spring earth-stained remnants of old drifts on was sugar-making-always a happy time the sides of the hills and along the stone for me. Usually the last half of March, walls. Those lucid warm March days in when rills from the melting snow began the naked maple woods under the blue to come through the fields, the veins of sky, with the first drops of sap ringing the sugar maples began to thrill with the in the pans, had a charm that does not spring warmth. There was a general fade from my mind. awakening about the farm at this time: After the trees were all tapped, the cackling of the hens, the bleating of two hundred and fifty of them, the young lambs and calves, and the wistful big kettles were again set up in the lowing of the cows. Earlier in the month old stone arch and the hogsheads the “sap spiles" had been overhauled, in which to store the sap placed in resharpened, and new ones made, usually position. By four o'clock many of the from bass wood. In my time the sap pans—milk pans from the dairy-would gouge was used instead of the auger, and be full, and the gathering with neck the manner of tapping was crude and yoke and pails began. When I was fourwasteful. A slanting gash three or four teen or fifteen I took a hand in this part inches long and a half inch or more deep of the work. It used to tax my strength was cut, and an inch below the lower end to carry the two twelve-quart pails full of this the gouge was driven in to make through the rough places and up the the place for the spile, a piece of wood steep banks in the woods and then lift two inches wide, shaped to the gouge, them up and alternately empty them and a foot or more in length. It gave into the hogsheads without displacing the tree a double and unnecessary the neck yoke. But I could do it. Now
all this work is done by the aid of a team good runs make a long and successful and a pipe fastened on a sled. Before I season. My boyhood days in the spring was old enough to gather sap it fell to sugar bush were my most enjoyable on me to go to the barns and put in hay for the farm. How I came to know each the cows and help stable them. The one of those two hundred and fifty trees next morning the boiling of the sap —what a distinct sense of individuality would begin, with Hiram in charge. seemed to adhere to most of them—as The big, deep iron kettles were slow much so as to each cow in a dairy! I evaporators compared with the broad, knew at which trees I would be pretty shallow sheet-iron pans now in use. sure to find a full pan and at which ones Profundity cannot keep up with shallow a less amount. One huge tree always ness in sugar-making; the more super gave a cream pan full-a double measficial your evaporator, within limits, the ure--while the others were filling an more rapid your progress. It took the ordinary pan. This was known as “the farmers nearly a hundred years to find old cream-pan tree.” Its place has long this out, or at least to act upon it. been vacant; about half the others are
At the end of a couple of days of hard still standing, but with the decrepitude boiling Hiram would “syrup off," hav- of age appearing in their tops; a new ing reduced two hundred pails of sap to generation of maples has taken the five or six of syrup. The syruping off place of the vanished veterans. often occurred after dark. When the While tending the kettles there beside liquid dropped from a dipper which was the old arch in the bright, warm March dipped into it and held up in the cool or April days, with my brother, or while air formed into stiff, thin masses, it he had gone to dinner, looking down the had reached the stage of syrup. How long valley and off over the curving we minded our steps over the rough backs of the distant mountain ranges, path, in the semidarkness of the old tin what dreams I used to have, what vague lantern, in carrying those precious pails longings, and, I may say, what happy of syrup to the house, where the final anticipations! I am sure I gathered more process of "sugaring off” was to be than sap and sugar in those youthful completed by mother and Jane!
days amid the maples. When I visit the The sap runs came at intervals of old home now I have to walk up to the several days. Two or three days would sugar bush and stand around the old usually end one run. A change in the " boiling place,” trying to transport myweather to below freezing would stop self back into the magic atmosphere of the flow, and a change to much warmer that boyhood time. The man has his would check it. The fountains of sap dreams, too, but to his eyes the world is are let loose by frosty sunshine. Frost in not steeped in romance as it is to the the ground, or on it in the shape of snow, eyes of youth. and the air full of sunshine are the most One springtime in the sugar season favorable conditions. A certain chill my cousin Gib Kelly, a boy of my own and crispness, something crystalline, in age, visited me, staying two or three the air are necessary. A touch of ener days. (He died last fall.) When he went vating warmth from the south, or a away I was minding the kettles in the frigidity from the north, and the trees feel woods, and as I saw him crossing the it through their thick bark coats very bare fields in the March sunshine, his quickly. Between the temperatures of steps bent toward the distant mounthirty-five to fifty they get in their best tains, I still remember what a sense of work. After we have had one run ending loss came over me, his comradeship had in rain and warmth, a fresh fall of snow so brightened my enjoyment of the
sap snow" the farmers call such beautiful days. He seemed to take my will give us another run. Three or four whole world with him, and on that and
the following day I went about my duties several occasions to hunt up friends of in the sap bush in a wistful and pensive my youth after the elapse of more than mood I had never before felt. I early half a century. Last spring I had a showed the capacity for comradeship. A letter from a pupil of mine in the first boy friend could throw the witchery of school I ever taught, 1854 or '55. I had romance over everything. Oh, the en not seen or heard from him in all those chanted days with my youthful mates! years when he recalled himself to my And I have not entirely outgrown that mind. The name I had not forgotten, early susceptibility. There are persons Roswell Beach, but the face I had. Only in the world whose comradeship can still two weeks ago, being near his town, it transmute the baser metal of common occurred to me to look him up. I did so place scenes and experiences into the and was shocked to find him on his purest gold of romance for me. It is deathbed. Too weak to raise his head probably my idiosyncrasies that explain from his pillow, he yet threw his arms all this.
around me and spoke my name many Another unforgetable passion of com times with marked affection. He died radeship in my youth I experienced a few days later. I was to him what some toward the son of a cousin, a boy of my old teachers were to me--stars four or five years old, or about half my that never set below my horizon. own age. One spring his mother and he My boyish liking for girls was quite were visiting at our house eight or ten different from my liking for boys—there days. The child was very winsome and was little or no sense of comradeship in we soon became inseparable companions. it. When I was eight or nine years old He was like a visitation from another there was one girl in the school toward sphere. I frequently carried him on my whom I felt very partial, and I thought back, and my boy's heart opened to him she reciprocated till one day I suddenly more and more each day. One day we saw how little she cared for me. The started to come down a rather steep pair teacher had forbidden us to put our feet of stairs from the bog-pen chamber; I upon
the seats in front of us. In a spirit had stepped down a few steps and of rebellion, I suppose, when the teacher reached out to take little Harry in my was not looking, I put my brown, soilarms as he stood on the floor at the head stained bare feet upon the forbidden of the stairs, and carry him down, when seat. Polly quickly spoke up and said, in his joy he gave a spring and toppled “Teacher, Johnny Burris put his feet me over with him in my arms and we on the seat.” What a blow it was to me, brought up at the bottom with our heads for her to tell on me! Like a cruel frost against some solid timbers. It was a those words nipped the tender buds of severe shake-up, but hurt my heart more my affection and they never sprouted than it did my head because the boy again. Years after, her younger brother was badly bruised.
The event comes married my younger sister, and maybe back to me as if it was but yesterday. that unkind cut of our school days kept For weeks after his departure I longed me from marrying Polly. I had other for him day and night and the experi- puppy loves, but they all died a natural ence still shines like a star in my boy- death. hood life. I never saw him again until But let me get back to the farm work. two years ago when, knowing he lived The gathering of the things in the there, a practicing physician, I hunted sugar bush, when the flow of sap had him up in San Francisco, California. I stopped, usually fell to Eden and me. found him a sedate, gray-haired man, We would carry the pans and spiles towith no hint, of course, of the child I had gether in big piles, where the oxen and known and loved more than sixty years sled could reach them. Then when they before. It has been my experience on were taken to the house it was mother's
and sister's task to get them ready for was not sown until late June. One the milk.
farmer would ask another, “How many The drawing out of the manure and oats are you going to sow, or have you the spring plowing were the next things sown?” not how many acres. “Oh, fifin order on the farm. I took a hand in teen or twenty bushels." the former but not in the latter. The The working of the roads came in spreading of the manure that had been June after the crops were in. All hands drawn out and placed in heaps in the summoned by the “path master” would fields during the winter often fell to me. meet at a given date, at the end of the I remember that I did not bend my back district down by the old stone schoolto the work very willingly, especially house-men and boys with oxen, horses, when the cattle had been bedded with scrapers, hoes, crowbars—and begin relong rye straw, but there were compen- pairing the highway. It was not strenusations. I could lean on my fork handle ous work, but a kind of holiday that we and gaze at the spring landscape; I all enjoyed more or less. The road got could see the budding trees and listen to fixed after a fashion, here and there-a the songs of the early birds and maybe bridge mended, a ditch cleaned out, the catch the note of the first swallow in the loose stones removed, a hole filled up, air overhead. The farm boy always has or a short section “turnpiked”—but the the whole of nature at his elbow and he days were eight-hour days and they did is usually aware of it.
not sit heavy upon us. The state does When, armed with my long-handled it much better now with road machinery “knocker," I used to be sent forth in and a few men. Once or twice a year the April meadows to beat up and scat- father used to send me with a hoe to ter the fall droppings of the cows—the throw the loose stones out of the road. Juno's cushions, as Irving named them A pleasanter duty during those years -I was in much more congenial em was shooting chipmunks around the ployment. Had I known the game of corn. These little rodents were so plengolf in those days I should probably tiful in my youth that they used to pull have looked upon this as a fair substi up the sprouting corn around the margin tute. To stand the big cushions up on of the field near the stone walls. Armed edge and with a real golfer's swing hit with the old flintlock musket, somethem with my mallet and see the pieces times loaded with a handful of hard fly was more like play than work. Oh, peas, I used to haunt the edges of the then it was April and I felt the rising cornfield, watching for the little stripedtide of spring in my blood, and a bit of backed culprits. How remorselessly I free activity like this under the blue sky used to kill them! In those days there suited my humor. A boy likes almost were a dozen where there is barely one any work that affords him an escape now. The woods literally swarmed with from routine and humdrum and has an them, and when beechnuts and acorns element of play in it. Turning the were scarce they were compelled to grindstone or the fanning mill or carry- poach upon the farmers' crops. ing together sheaves or picking up pota to reduce them and other pests that toes, or carrying in wood, were duties shooting matches were held. Two men that were a drag upon my spirits. would choose sides, as in the spelling
The spring plowing and the sowing of matches; seven or eight or more were on the grain and harrowing fell mainly to a side, and the side that brought in the father and my older brothers. The most trophies at the end of the week won spring work was considered done when and the losing side had to pay for the the oats were sown and the corn and
supper at the village hotel for the whole potatoes planted—the first in early May, crowd. A chipmunk's tail counted one; the latter in late May. The buckwheat a red squirrel's, three; a gray squirrel's,
Hawks' heads and owls' fought campaign; our weapons were heads counted as high as ten, I think. gotten ready in due time-new scythes Crows' heads also counted pretty high. and new snaths, new rakes and new One man who had little time to hunt forks, the hay riggings repaired or built engaged me to help him, offering me so anew, etc. Shortly after the Fourth of much per dozen units. I remember that July the first assault upon the legions of I found up in the sap bush a brood of timothy would be made in the lodged young screech owls just out of the nest grass below the barn. Our scythes would and I killed them all. That man is still turn up great swaths that nearly covered owing me for those owls. What a lot of the ground and that put our strength to motley heads and tails were brought in a severe test.
When noon came we at the end of the week! I never saw would go to the house with shaking them, but I wish I had. Repeated shoot- knees. ing matches of this kind in different The first day of haying meant nearly parts of the state so reduced the small, a whole day with the scythe, and was the wild life, especially the chipmunks, that most trying of all. After that a half day it has not yet recovered, and probably mowing, when the weather was good, never will.
meant work in curing and hauling each In those days the farmer's hand afternoon. From the first day in early was against nearly every wild thing. July till the end of August we lived for We used to shoot and trap crows the hayfield. No respite except on rainy and hen hawks and small hawks as days and Sundays, and no change exthough they were our mortal enemies. cept from one meadow to another. No Farmers were wont to stand up poles in eight-hour days then, rather twelve or their meadows and set steel traps on the fourteen, including the milking. No top of them to catch the hen hawks that horse rakes, no mowing machines or hay came for the meadow mice which were tedders or loading or pitching devices damaging their meadows. The hen hawk then. The scythe, the hand rake, the is so named because he rarely or never pitchfork in the calloused hands of men catches a hen or a chicken. He is a and boys did the work, occasionally the mouser.
We used to bait the hungry women even taking a turn with the rake crows in spring with “deacon" legs and or in mowing away. I remember the shoot them without, mercy, and all be- first wire-toothed horse rake with its cause they now and then pulled a little two handles which, when the day was corn, forgetting or not knowing of the hot and the grass heavy, nearly killed grubs and worms they pulled and the both man and horse. The holder would grasshoppers they ate. But all this is throw his weight upon it to make it grip changed and now our sable friends and and hold the hay, and then, in a spasm the high-soaring hawks are seldom mo of energy, lift it up and make it drop lested. The fool with a rifle is very the hay. From this rude instrument, apt to shoot an eagle if the chance through various types of wooden and comes to him, but he has to be very sly revolving rakes, the modern wheeled about it.
rake, where the raker rides at his ease, The buttercups and the daisies would has been evolved. At this season the be blooming when we were working the cows were brought to the yard by or road and the timothy grass about ready before five, breakfast was at six, lunch to do so—pointing to the near approach in the field at ten, dinner at twelve, and of the great event of the season, the one supper at five, with milking and hay major task toward which so many other drawing and heaping up till sundown. things pointed—“haying,” the gather- Those midforenoon lunches of mother's ing of our hundred or more tons of good rye bread and butter, with crullers meadow hay. This was always a hard or gingerbread, and in August a fresh,