Vintage Views: The last sugar bucket

Each spring, I think about the old days collecting all that the sugar maples could give us.

Each spring, I think about the old days collecting all that the sugar maples could give us. Library of Congress

Published: 03-09-2024 12:00 PM

I walked the same hundred acres that my grandfather did so many decades before. A slight fog was burning off as I crested the hill at the center of the property and looked out over the hundreds of New Hampshire sugar maples.

A family tradition at first and then a very lucrative business for my grandfather, early mornings collecting the maple sap from each tin sap bucket followed by late nights feeding the fire in the sap house.

He was a frugal Yankee who collected every drop of sap and mastered the art of boiling it to a rich dark sweet amber. At the end of each season, he would take me to the fields to collect the tin sap buckets and gently store them in the barn until the next year.

I remember him telling me to collect each bucket and pull all the taps from the grand trunks. He counted the buckets and in his calloused hands treated them with respect.

I do remember his very last year, quite elderly but still producing the best maple syrup in the state. He was forgetting things and laboring twice as hard as he once did.

The year he passed was difficult. Each spring I think about the old days collecting all that the sugar maples could give us.

I recently traveled to the old hundred-acre sugar maple lot and stood on the hill just remembering him with fondness during a nostalgic moment.

As I walked back to the main road, I came upon a large tree, lonely and quite stark without foliage so early in the season. Hanging on the side of that tree I found a rusted tin sap bucket still attached to a tap long grown into the trunk.

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A simple rusted bucket. A very emotional moment in the lonely deep woods that once belonged to Grandpa. Looks like I found one of those sap buckets that he lost that last year he worked the land.

I walked the same hundred acres that my grandfather did so many decades before.