1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of por.

The Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) online

. (page 18 of 57)
Online Library1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of porThe Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) → online text (page 18 of 57)
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"Don't you children know any
better than to come runnin' up here

like this ?" he fairly shouted,

shaking them and pushing them
back away from him. Yes, grand-
pa was angered ; but more from
fright than with the girls them-
selves. Fatherless, they were his
special care and treasure ; and their
mischievous ^pranks — big or little,
it never seemed to matter — were
always passed over unnoticed, or
unreproved, anyway ; not so this
time, however.

"Haven't I told you — both of
you — time an' time again," he went
on, "that you mustn't come racin'
up in front of my axe when I'm
choppin'? Why, I don't know
what's going' to become of you —
you children, you — I declare,. I
don't, if you don't pay more heed
to me when I'm tellin' you things

First thing you know, you'll

be killed, if you don't mind me
better. I can't always be a watch-
in' out for you Do you hear

me?"

"Yes, grandpa, we do. An' we
won't ever-do-so-any-4nore-again,
never ; no, we won't," they readily
promised, "but, grandpa," coaxing-
ly, and in a manner not only be-
speaking repentance, but promis-
ingly hopeful of heeding future ad-
monitions as well, "don't you see
the sugar snow a comin' down. . . .
And don't you remember that you
always told us when it snowed like
this way that it was time to tap the
trees? Don't you remember, grand-
pa? Oh, please tell us, "yes," that



you



do



remember !-



-Please,



p-1-e-a-s-e do, grandpa An'

we want you to let us help you get
the buckets down and all the things
ready — right now ! An' if you
only just will — an' won't chop any
more — we'll throw all the sticks up

onto the wood pile Ju.st watch

us throw 'em, grandpa! — See?"

And they went to work, tossing
up the sticks — hit or miss, miss,
mostly — in direction of the wood-
pile, one watchful eye on their
grandfather and the other on their
work, in a way — it must be admit-
ted — that was rather more coaxing
than helpful.

Grandpa was certainly paying
close and amused attention, and
was finding their efforts to "help
him" quite as hard to resist as had
been their pleadings. In fact, he
was quite persuaded that Leila and
Alsie were right — that this was
really "sugar-snow."

Anyway, the sharp axe, gashed
deep in the sapling — which was
firmly held on the chopping-block
with one foot — still clings, as he
tries to peer up under his palm
through the blinding flakes, in an
effort to forecast a "little weather"
promising to their hopes and their
faith in his wisdom.

"Well, well," he said, at last,
wrenching the axe free to continue
his work, and as if quite unmind-
ful of their anxious, questioning
faces, but he knew — he knew how
they were watching him and wait-
ing for his decision, trust a grand-
father for that, "I daresn't make
you any promises now, children,
only just this much: You wait till
tomorrow, then, when it's about
noon — time the sun gets highest,
you know — if the snow begins to
run*, on the south cant*, down
in the little pasture, why, I'll start
a fire under the kettles out at the
boiling place, and we'll — well, we'll
begin gettin' the buckets down,
anyway, and get 'em scalt out....
Yes, we'll make a start."



NOTE — Run, to grow soft and melt. Cant, New England vernacular for slope.



AN ADVENTURESOME SAP GATHERING



159



"An' you surely will, grandpa?

Promise cross-your-heart-and-

hope-to-die — do you ?" they cried,
catching him by the tail of his
frock and trying to wind him up in
it, as they ran around him in an
outburst of joy too great to be ex-
pressed in words.

"Yes — yes, I will," he replied,
"but don't bother me any more now.
Come, run into the house," motion-
ing them away with his hand, "and
don't let me see your faces out here
again till this storm's over; come,
run along, I say. Do you hear
me?" he calls after them a bit
sharply to quicken their snail-slow
step homeward. "No, rto : stop
your teasing ; not another word, I
say ! No, you're not going to
throw any more sticks onto the
wood pile, either. .. .What? No —
it snow.s too hard. Now start
yourselves into the house this very
minute, or I'll — I'll know the rea-
son why," stooping to pick up a
twig to emphasize his commands,
and whipping the air with it ; a twig
so small it wouldn't have hurt a
fly. "Come — stiver, I say !"

They "stivered," laughing back
at their grandfather, .standing there,
with one hand resting on his axe
handle, and waving that silly little
switch at them with the other and
looking his very fiercest, — or try-
ing to The idea! Pretend-
ing to glower at them, when they
knew just as well as anything that
it was all "put on." The thought
of grandpa whipping them was so
funny ! "Just too funny for any-
thing," they laughed.

But, anyway, he'd promised them
just exactly what they'd come for,
and teased for, so they'd do just as
he told them to — this time.

And disappeared into the house.

III.

Now the virtue that has its own
reward doesn't make a very big hit



with children — not when they have
to practice it.

Could they ever wait, they won-
dered, till tomorrow? Just now,
it seemed to them they never could.
But things do come — even to chil-
dren — who wait And to-
morrow noon found Leila and Alsie
returning from the "little pasture"
with the glad news that "the snow's
runnin,' grandpa ! Now you must
do's you said you would."

And their grandfather never goes
back on them, once he has given his
promise, so the fires are built under
the huge iron kettles out at the boil-
ing place, and the kettles filled with
water. Soon it is steaming hot and
ready for scalding the buckets — ly-
ing in rows near by — having been
hustled down out of the shed
chamber and carried there by Leila
and Alsie, in all the flutter and ex-
citement of happy beginnings.

For the sugar-making season is
coming It is already here!

Next morning, bright and early,
the big old wood-sled — backed up
the night before in readiness for
an early start — stands waiting
for its load. An ox sled, it is;
none of your frivolous light run-
ning "bob" variety, but a big,
heavy, ungainly affair ; home-made,
with long wooden runners ; the kind
of a sled that, as the country-folk
say, "had to be chained to keep it
in the door yard," because it was
so crude and unwieldly.

When used for drawing sap bar-
rels, it was fitted with a strong
wooden frame. This frame, held
together at its four corners with
.stout oak pins, was of a length and
width to hold two barrels, placed
end to end. Stakes about five feet
long — three on each side — were
driven into the top edge of the sled
runners, and stood upright to keep
the load from slipping off; that was
their chief use; incidentally, how-
ever, they were such fine things for



160



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



Leila and Alsie to hold on and
swing by when the sled was in
motion.

Soon the old sled was piled high
as it could hold with the long rows
of sweetly-fragrant wooden sap
buckets. And grandpa — after what
seemed to Leila and Alsie ages and
ages of waiting — appeared at last
around the corner of the barn, driv-
ing before him "Daniel and Da-
rius," the big old widehorned spot-
ted oxen. After many "whoa-
hishings" and "gee-offings," the
placid, cud-chewing creatures were
finally backed up over the sled-
tongue, and their yoke-ring slipped
into the iron groove at the end of
it. Then, with an awakening prod
from grandpa's goad-stick, they
settled themselves to their load ;
swaying their heads from side to
side, and stepping out with slow,
measured tread, the load, in a man-
ner, is on its way.

And what a load it was !

The big, toppling pile of buckets ;
the basket of tools for tapping the
trees, and last — but not least — the
two girls themselves. Leila swing-
ing by one sled-stake and Alsie by
another, with Trudger yelping and
bounding on ahead. Grandpa, wad-
ing knee-deep in the soft snow by
the side of the oxen, guides them
along up and down the deep-rutted,
snow-filled wood road that winds
along past the barn, down through
orchard, fields and rocky pasture
to the Sugar Place.

And what a ride it was !

For the hills were steep, the hol-
lows filled with soft snow, and a
heavy, unwieldly load is pushing

the oxen hard ahead Old and

experienced fellows — Daniel and
Darius. They know the value of a
step ahead before taking the plunge
and very carefully and cautiously
do they step along.

And what jolly sport it was !

Down the long slope of snow-
covered fields, gleaming crisply



white in the morning's sunshine, we
go — bumping along ; thrilling with
anticipation and making the hills
echo with our shouts of laughter,
as we come up out of one "thank-
you-marm," only to nose down into
a deeper one, where Daniel and
Darius — like Doctor Foster — go up
to their very middle, as they plunge
and wiggle and plough their way
through.

And how slow we go ! The poky
old oxen barely crawled, it seems
to us, their noses poked straight
out, horns laid on shoulder, holding
back — holding back, all the way...
Would we ever get there ?

To the edge of the big wood we
came — at last ! The big, still,
mystery-whispering wood ! How
beautiful it looked that bright
March morning ! What sparkles
of sunshine were thrown back at us
from boughs and branches of ever-
green and maple — weighted and
bending low with their fluffy mass-
es of yesterday's "sky-feathers !"

And what jolly sport — ducking
our heads to escape the soft show-
ers from the .snow-weighted,
bending-low branches, as we
ploughed our way past them into
the wood ! Then the fine woods-y

tang that breathed up to us

How we thrilled with the keen en-
joyment of it, and of our own im-
portance in being there — to "help
grandpa."

Our hand-sled, for us to haul the
buckets on from tree to tree, trails
the big sled all the way down.
Here it is, and almost before we
know it grandpa has it piled full
up for us. Yes, and here's the
basket of "tapping things," too —
"Noah's Ark," we always called it,
because it was always filled with
everything you could think of: the
big auger for boring the holes in
the trees, the spiles, hammer and
nails, bits of wire and string, and
— oh, everything !

Swinging the jingle-ty, junk-



AN ADVENTURESOME SAP GATHERING



161



e-ty basket over his arm, grandpa
leads the way to the nearest tree,
with Leila and I at his heels, pull-
ing and tugging at our load of
buckets, as it slides and slews over
the uneven path.

Have you ever tried to pull a
loaded hand-sled over untrodden
ground, covered deep in snow?
Some pull, isn't it? That was
what it seemed to us— a hard old
pull, and only a single track of
footsteps ahead of us to mark the
way.

Our heavy load, our uneven
path, our sudden stop to watch the
glint of scarlet on the head of a
bobbing woodpecker, and to listen
to his tock-tock-tocking, as he
winds around a nearby tree, then
glimpsing a chipmunk on a spruce
bough, directly over our head.s, chit-
tering down at us and eyeing us so
inquisitively, had made us lag a
long way behind grandpa. And
now he is calling:

"Come, come, children ! What
makes you so slow?"

So we leave little Tapping Red-
head and Mr. Chippy Chipmunk,
and hurry along with our load as
fast as we can go. And now that
we hear the tapping-iron biting
into a tree, how fast we hurry along
up to grandpa — to stand on tiptoe,
watching for the first drop of sap
to trickle down, as the tapping-iron
is twisted out.

Then we hand up a spile, then
the hammer, then a nail : these
driven home, how we hurry
along a bucket for grandpa to hang
on the nail, so that not a single drop
shall be wasted ! Then we all wait
for the soft tinkle and the faint,
sweet smell of the sap as it drips,
patteringly down the side of the
bucket.

Oh, yes ; and to remember this
particular tree as the one to come
back to for our first drink of sap.
There'll be a good big dipperful



pretty soon, for see how fast it
drops.

"Just look, grandpa," we exclaim,
"see how fast the sap drops !"

Can you think of anything more
sweetly refreshing than those long
draughts of sweet sap — out of those
fragrant sap-buckets? Isn't it a
taste that lingers? And wouldn't
you like a tin dipper full right now?
— yes, that's what I said — "tin dip-
per." Who ever heard of drinking
sap out of anything but a tin dipper?

Then we go on to the next tree ;
and the next and the next, till we
have made the round of a full
morning's work, and come back to
the place of beginning — the empty
wood sled and the stolid, cud-chew-
ing oxen, standing just where we'd
left them ; they haven't stirred out
of their tracks all the time we've
been gone.

And you better believe we lose
no time in getting ready to go
home. For our brisk work, and the
sharp morning air, has made us
hungry as wolves ! Daniel and
Darius are hungry, too, and need
no prodding as they nose for their
hay-filled manger.

So we make quick time — up the
hills and home.

And when we get there, was there
ever anything that could have tast-
ed "gooder" to us than the steam-
ing pot of baked beans and the huge
loaf of brown bread that mother
has already on the table, waiting
for us? Then there was the baked
Indian pudding, too ; little gold-
brown islands of it — dipped with no
stinted hand into our plates, and
surrounded by a high tide of maple
sugar-sweetened cream.

Hoop — ee ! Hoop — ee ! But it
was good !

And couldn't we have some more
of it? we begged, licking the bowls
of our inverted spoons, and reach-
ing out our scraped-clean plates,
arms length, towards the huge pud-



162



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



ding- pan, — just a little, teeny bit
more?

We could. Grandpa said so.
For we'd been good girls that morn-
ing. Done just exactly what he
told us to and helped him a whole
lot ; didn't go chasing after squir-
rels only just once; nor race 'round,
scaring up partridges, nor any-
thing; just 'tended to their knittin'
and worked like little beavers ! "So
give 'em all the pudding they want,
and cream, too — just lots of it !
They've earned it."

It was pretty good, listening to
praise like that from grandpa. It
made us feel quite puffed up — that,
and the pudding. And for being so
wonderfully good we were standing
a pretty fair chance of being filled
to the limit with — both.

Well, praise and pudding were
pretty good things, we thought.

IV.

Now a late spring, as this par-
ticular spring proved to be — for af-
ter the first generous run there were
days and days of grim old winter
before it was warm enough to "start
the .sap" again — means either a big
falling off of the "sugar crop," or
else working "like all possessed"
from sun up till long after sun down.

"Making hay while the isun
shines," and "making sugar while
the sap runs," means exactly one
and the same thing — that the farm-
er has to hustle.

Hustle is certainly the word.

For the sap, gathered at flood
tide — and that is the way it flows,
as the long delayed warmth sends
it "welling to waiting bough and
bud" — means running over buck-
ets, and sap kettles kept "on the
boil" day in and day out ; some-
times, and very often, far into the
night as well.

And what keen sport it was when
mother would let us stay out at the
'boiling place" and wait for the sug-
aring-off," on those busy nights !



She would give us saucers and
spoons, and when grandpa's long-
handled sugar ladle "haired," as he
stirred and lifted and poured — over
and over again — the sweetly fra-
grant boiling syrup, we'd slip our
saucers underneath and "get ours."

Then the neighbors, with boys
and girls aplenty, would always
come, in big pung-loads, for the
end of the season Sugaring Off.
And what sweet, sticky, stirring
times we would have ! Each and
every one of us armed with a dish
and spoon, beating and stirring the
syrup into sugar.

A variation that always added a
good bit of zest to the Sugaring
Off, was a pan of snow to "wax
the maple on." I wonder if there
is any tid-bit that children — and
many grown-ups — have a bigger
sweet tooth for than "waxed
maple?"

Other nights — in the big rush of
things — we would be forgotten,
and would stay out at the "boiling
place" so late that we would fall
asleep, and have to be carried to
the house either by grandpa, or
good natured old Bill Spooner —
our "hired man."

V.

Just a word about faithful old
Bill Spooner — gone to his reward
long, long ago. He was rough and
uncouth as he could be, but with
a heart that was pure gold. Always
in good humor. Never getting out
of patience with u.s — no matter
what we did or how bothersome
we were to him.

In his younger days, before he
"got stranded high and dry on
these here mountings," as he used
to say, he had been a sailor. And
the stories he would tell us about
his experiences on the "high seas,
before the mast," as he proudly
called them, were — to us — intense-
ly thrilling ! Always a new story
every time ; it made no difference



AN ADVENTURESOME SAP GATHERING



163



how often we begged for "just one
more,'' we always got it.

Why, they would have filled
books !

His description of shipwreck, and
his "saved by the .skin of your
teeth" escapes, would make us posi-
tively shivery. Then he would
tell us about the strangest kind of
beings, who inhabited far away
islands; oh, very dreadful crea-
tures — half human, half animal, as
he would describe them — that
must have been, we thought, quite

awful! And quite all lies,

probably, many of his "yarns/' but
we believed them as seriously as
we believed Bible stories, and with
equal faith, I dare say.

Because of his thin, high-pitched
voice, and because he mended his
clothes and darned his "footens,"
we always called him, "Miss"
Spooner.

To us children, a man sewing was
a strange sight ! We could never
quite understand it. And wearing
his thimble on his thumb, as Spoon-
er did, and pushing his needle from
him instead of towards him, as he
sewed, was still another thing we
couldn't understand. So we nev-
er missed a chance to watch him.

Yes ; Spooner was odd and queer.

But we loved him in spite of his
queer ways ; perhaps we loved him
more — because of them. Anyway, I
distinctly remember that, when we
said our prayers at night, we be-
sought Divine guidance not only
for grandpa, grandma and mother,
but for dear old "Miss" Spooner,
too.

VI.

Ours was the real old fashioned
way of making sugar. Instead of
a sugar house, situated in some ac-
cessible part of the Sugar Place, we
had what was called a "boiling
place." Huge iron kettles and
deep sheet iron pans were set in a



solid foundation of rocks, with
openings on the ground— big
enough to take in good sized sticks
of wood ; small logs, in fact. This
boiling place was set close up
against the old stone wall that sep-
arated our apple orchard from the
door yard, and was only a short
distance from the house and direct-
ly opposite our big old red barn.

Making the sugar so near the
house wa.s, in many ways, prefer-
able to the modernized methods of
today, as different members of
the family could easily look after
the fires, and the boiling down of
the sap, while the "men folks" were
away on their long rounds of sap
gathering. But it made the hauling
of sap — up through the stony pas-
ture and the lowermost edge of
field, still more up — a very .slow,
toilsome task.



VII.

It had now got to be about the
last lap in the sugar making race.
For these were the lingering days
of April. Spring was warming the
New Hampshire hill sides, and
sending their last snows, "singing
in joy of their happy release," to
swell the brook beds. The warm
breath of April days was in the
air, giving to the tree tops that
softly pink haze that foretells not
only the "soon coming bud and
blossom," but the final days of the
sugar making season.

And how the sap did run!

Drop — drop — drop, so fast that it
seemed almost a steady stream all
day long; nights, too, it dript —
when the frost held off. It made
busy doings for grandpa and
Spooner — twice a day gatherings —
to keep pace with full-up and over-
flowing buckets.

Grandpa couldn't be bothered
with us now. It had been several
days since we had been with him



164



THE GRANITE MONTHLY



on his rounds, and we were getting
pretty tired of being told every
time.

"No, children, you can't go with
me this trip I'm too busy."

So we decided there was going
to be a change — if there was any
virtue in teasing. We had stayed
at home long enough.

It was mid-afternoon, and grand-
pa was getting ready for the second
and last trip — for the day— to the
Sugar Place.

Knowing, from past experiences,
that we would be more likely to go,
if we waited till the very last min-
uet before we began to tease, we
planned to be a bit "cagey" and
not let on that we'd even thought
of going — or tease a single tease —
till just as he was starting off, and
would be in too much of a hurry to
stop for an argument, or to stop
long enough to even say, "no ; you
can't go."

We had guessed right. He hesi-
tatingly consented.

So with our little tin pails, to
help him carry the sap — oh, we
were going to help big, we were,
to pay him for letting us come!...
we .started off.

Down over the same old wood
road, we again jostled along. It was
pretty hard going now, with the
snow gone in spots ; bare ground
and muddy, part of the way, with
big stones in the road that made
the old sled scrunch and squirm,
leaving a generous "grist" of .shav-
ings out of its runners — on their
sharp edges — as we ground along
over them. It made hard pulling
for Daniel and Darius, too, but we
didn't mind that ; if they did, why,
they should worry — not us. Our
business was to get to the big, old,
lovely wood again, for it seemed
ages since we were last there — just
ages !

And very soon we do get there,
for grandpa is in a hurry and urges



the old oxen along as fast as they
can go.

How enchantingly beautiful it

looked ! How enticing, as we

slipped along the road into its very
heart ! And how we loved this
deep old wood — so full of mystery
and charm that it seemed to us like
a big story book of never ending
happenings ! Listen ! — what did we
suppose the trees were telling each
other in their soft, rustling whis-
pers, which we could hear going on
all about us ? Something — some
very pretty stories, we were sure —

Fairy stories, perhaps How

we wished we could hear them, too.

How fragrantly sweet and fresh
everything seemed, with the
"breath of budding leaves showing
mistily" in the light of these late

afternoon shadows ! Shadows

which were, as Leila described
them, "Scotch-checkering every-
thing all over," with their fine
radiating, criss-cross lines.

A little way off — just over the
tree tops — a big flock of crows are
winging ponderously towards the
top of a tall hemlock, where they
settle down — at last ; but not for a
peace conference, for only listen to
their scolding, "caw — caw — caw's!"
"Such a very disagreeable, unhappy
family," we think. "See how they
want each other's places as they
fly-hop from branch to branch ; and
get them, too, or else go flying off
in the biggest kind of a huff, find-
ing fault with everything — the cross
old things!"

But listen — hear .that? — that
noise? Off that way, down by that
bunch of spruce trees, it comes —
"Trum — thrum — thrum," it goes ;
why, we know what that noise is,
don't we ? It's a cock-partridge,
"drumming on a hollow log," so's
to let his mate know he's all right,
we guess. Wouldn't we love to
crawl up real still and "see him
drum?" "Look! up there, on that



AN ADVENTURESOME SAP GATHERING



165



tree" — there goes that self same
Chippy Chipmunk, we're sure ;
fluffing up his tail over his back
and pt-cping down at us, his little
bead-y eyes so watchful and de-
fiant, as if he might be saying to
himself: "Well, what are you doing
here in my woods? Do you think
I am afraid of you? Pooh! Just
let me see you try to catch me ....
There, I knew you couldn't." he
seems to chitter down to us, as, in
frolic, we race along under the trees
just to watch him jump from one
tree to another — ever and ever so
far ahead of us.

VIII.

But grandpa is calling us.

He is putting on his sap yoke.



Online Library1884 numbers of the Bay state monthlyBe the first and subjects of first 10 volumes and List of porThe Granite monthly, a New Hampshire magazine, devoted to literature, history, and state progress (Volume 53) → online text (page 18 of 57)