By Harry Cooley
“IT LOOKS LIKE we might get a good run today, Ben“ I said to my helper as we went to breakfast at seven-thirty on March 20, 1937, after we had been in the barn since five-thirty doing our milking and feeding of thirty-five milkers and twenty-five younger heifers and calves.
“It’s a good thing we got most of the roads broke out and the buckets hung yesterday. All the tapping there is left to do is down in the cold corner of the Callender lot where the snow is so deep. There’s about fifty buckets left where the two sap roads join.
“When you get your team cleaned off and harnessed, you can hitch onto the gathering sled and draw that up to the sugar house and run the water into the storage tank. Then take fifty covers on the tank and sled and drive over into the Callender lot. If there are some buckets half full or more you better forget tapping and start gathering.
“If there isn’t much sap, see if you can break out the road in that cold corner and scatter those fifty buckets, but don’t get your team into it if there’s a heavy crust. Your nigh horse, Ned, is a perfect fool in the snow and with those sharp calks you put in yesterday he could cut himself bad.
“I’ll wash up the rig and lay a fire so when your first load comes in I can fire up. If this west wind holds and the sun isn’t too bright, it may run all night tonight. As soon as Henry gets the stables cleaned he will be over to help you, and perhaps we can get a couple of Aggie boys from the school this afternoon so you can get everything filled up by five o’clock.”
“If I have all that help and we get sap, we’ll have you running over by three o’clock,” was Ben's only comment as we sat down to a hearty breakfast.
My forecast of the day proved to be correct. The west wind freshened, the sun was slightly overcast, the thermometer hovered in the middle forties, and every one of our twelve hundred spouts began to put sap in the bucket at about sixty drops per minute. Just as I drew out the last of the wash water from the evaporator I heard Ben’s team bells on the ridge above the sugarhouse as he drew up his rig with a flourish at the end of the pipeline. Sap was brimming in the top of the tank, and he reported that some buckets on the big trees were almost full. It took five minutes for the first sap to come rushing out of the draw tub through the three-inch pipe, through the sap strainer, and into the supply tank outside the sugar house, and other five minutes to cover the bottom of the evaporator, and I touched a match to the kindling in the arch.
At first there was a feeble crackle and snap, but as the fine dry limb wood blazed up and the thirty-foot stack began to draw, the whole fourteen feet of cold evaporator began to steam and produce the hum and hiss of the giant teakettle which it resembled. Soon steam filled the whole space above the pans, and I made haste to open the ventilator doors.