Playin’ Wuff

By Dwyane Langmaid
A pho­to­graph from the Cary Maple Sugar film that was used at Maple Grove in St. Johns­bury. Cary orig­i­nally used oxen teams to gather the sap for his huge sug­ar­ing oper­a­tions. Many of the houses were in North Danville.

The four Peck boys grew up on a hard­scrab­ble farm over in the Tampico area and became men about the time George Cary’s sug­ar­ing oper­a­tions bloomed in North Danville. The Pecks were prob­a­bly no dif­fer­ent than any of the other local farm kids, but they were noted as being extremely rugged and very com­pet­i­tive. In fact, it was said that if you could some­how yoke them, a span of Peck boys could likely pull Cary’s prize oxen through a knothole.

The locals would often gather on the Old North Church road in Waterman’s field for a pic­nic and a Sun­day after­noon game of base­ball. Some­times an equally rag­tag team from another town could be enticed to par­tic­i­pate. Ora Peck often pitched. He could throw it long on speed and maybe a lit­tle short on con­trol. It was well known that if he hap­pened to hit a bull in the head with one of those pitches, you might as well break out the knives and forks.
First time up, the oppos­ing star belted it to hell. Gone out into the hay. Next time up, the obvi­ous solu­tion was to throw it even harder. The pitch got away, the star got beaned and dropped for the count. A lively dis­cus­sion resulted. After a few bumps and bruises, the game resumed. A severely sprained ankle (“Naw, it ain’t broke) and chore time ended the fun. 
Some­one remarked to Ora’s brother Free­dom. “Lit­tle rough, wasn’t it?”
“Naw, not bad wuff, jus good wuff.”
In his late years, Free­dom was help­ing a new­comer with some farm-type chores. It was sug­gested that if Free­dom saw the new­comer doing some­thing wrong to please bring it to his atten­tion. Freedom’s reply, “I really ain’t used to talkin’ all that much.”
Come spring­time in one of George Cary’s big sugar houses up on the Sprague farm, the Peck boys were boil­ing and a bunch of the other base­ball team mem­bers were gath­er­ing. The sap had been run­ning non­stop for three days and showed no sign of let­ting up. The buck­ets were all run­ning over; every­one was work­ing ham­mer and tong and get­ting sick of it. 
That’s when the boil­ers ques­tioned the gath­er­ers as to their man­li­ness, their worth, and why they couldn’t keep up. Some­thing else started to boil then, but every­one was too tired to do much about it, so off the gath­er­ers went for another sled-load of sap. As they went down into what is now Hickey’s sugar woods, they passed the big spring there and stopped to water them­selves and the horses. Some­one mirac­u­lously found a big jug under a rock, and it got passed around a cou­ple of times while the horses got their fill. 
The pump log from the spring came right to the top of the gath­er­ing tank and jug wis­dom inter­vened. Many loads of water later, it was hard to tell if it was sweat or steam com­ing out of the sugar house vent as the Peck boys doggedly tried to make Cary maple syrup with a lit­tle sap and a lot of pure spring water.
Jus some good wuff fun! 
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2 Responses to Playin’ Wuff

  1. Andrew Dussault says:

    After read­ing Dwayne’s piece about the Peck boys work­ing for George Cary I scanned a post card I have of a yoke of oxen pos­ing at Cary’s plant on Port­land St.
    But, I haven’t been able to trans­fer the photo to your com­ment section.

    Thank you, ANDY DUSSAULT

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